To Take Posesion of the Crown: Forms, Themes, and Politics in Julia Palmer's Centuries

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Brigham Young University - Provo

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Beahm, Brittany
Brigham Young University - Provo
Julia Palmer; centuries; religious poetry; hymn; sermon; spiritual journal; meditation; nonconformist; Restoration poetry; mystical marriage; English Language and Literature
thesis / dissertation description
Julia Palmer, a little-known religious poet, composed two centuries-collections of one hundred poems intended to be sung as hymns-in the two years between 1671 and 1673. Palmer's manuscript is unique in that its author was perhaps the only self-taught Nonconformist woman to have composed centuries during the Restoration period. Although religion shaped the lives of most British citizens at the time, the public literary expression of spiritual experiences-particularly by middle-class women-was uncommon within conventional Puritanism. The poetry's hybrid of forms, proliferation of religious themes, and undertones of political subversion offer an important glimpse into the way Puritan women writers of the seventeenth century manipulated literary discourse to meet their needs. Palmer negotiates contemporary sociopolitical issues by using poetic forms and themes consistent with biblical, puritan, and social standards. Palmer's centuries fuse the seventeenth-century spiritual journal with the eighteenth-century hymn. Applying the personal introspection of the journal to public worship would not become customary until the eighteenth century. This thesis analyzes Palmer's poetry in light of other Restoration writing as well as religious, sociopolitical, and gendered contexts in order to position it as an early form of eighteenth-century Dissenting poetry.