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Veiled Intent

Veiled Intent

Dissenting Women's Aesthetic Approach to Biblical Interpretation

by Natasha DuQuette
Publication Date: 26/07/2016
How were eighteenth-century dissenting women writers able to ensure their unique biblical interpretation was preserved for posterity? And how did their careful yet shrewd tactics spur early nineteenth-century women writers into vigorous theological debate? Why did the biblical engagement of such women prompt their commitment to causes such as the antislavery movement? Veiled Intent traces the pattern of tactical moves and counter-moves deployed by Anna Barbauld, Phillis Wheatley, Helen Maria Williams, Joanna Baillie, and Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck. These female poets and philosophers veiled provocative hermeneutical claims and calls for social action within aesthetic forms of discourse viewed as more acceptably feminine forms of expression. In between the lines of their published hymns, sonnets, devotional texts for children, and works of aesthetic theory, the perceptive reader finds striking theological insights shared from a particularly female perspective. These women were not only courageously interjecting their individual viewpoints into a predominantly male domain of formal study--biblical hermeneutics--but also intentionally supporting each other in doing so. Their publications reveal they were drawn to biblical imagery of embodiment and birth, to stories of the apparently weak vanquishing the tyrannical on behalf of the oppressed, and to the metaphor of Christ as strengthening rock. ""This beautifully written work explores the tactics dissenting women used to introduce their biblical interpretation, theological ideas, and aesthetic theories into print at a time when women were not recognized as full participants in academic discourse. By embedding their fresh and often provocative ideas in such culturally sanctioned feminine forms as poetry, drama, scriptural paraphrase, devotional literature, and educational manuals for teaching children, women pushed boundaries on many fronts. In their diverse writings, they combined 'politics with spirituality, social consciousness with prayer, and human affection with glimpses of powerful divinity as evoked in scripture.' Duquette's work challenges biblical scholars, theologians, and philosophers to expand their canons to include the forgotten writings of women whose ideas not only influenced women they knew but also crossed borders, channels, and oceans."" --Marion Ann Taylor, Professor of Old Testament, Wycliffe College, The University of Toronto; Editor of The Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters: A Historical and Biographical Guide ""Meticulous research, nuanced analysis, and fresh insights into the works of these 'doubly marginalized' writers--both women and dissenters--make Veiled Intent a significant contribution to the criticism of the period. In examining the complex relationship of aesthetics, theology, and social activism in the works of these writers, Natasha Duquette provides an important model for literary scholarship, one many others should follow."" --Karen Swallow Prior, Author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More--Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist ""Timely, stimulating, challenging. In the years of antislavery campaigning and consolidation of empire, Duquette argues, British women clothed theology in poetry (natural description, biblical paraphrase, imagery of light and darkness, strength and nurturing). Their work, informed by faith-based social activism, dismantles Burke's dichotomy between masculine Sublime and feminine Beautiful; their imagery marries these categories in aestheticizing moral action. Duquette's closely focused readings are a pleasure; so is Phillis Wheatley's inclusion among her formidably well-read, learnedly opinionated, non-slave peers."" --Isobel Grundy, Research Director, The Orlando Project ""Discussing literature in relation to theology is a delicate enterprise. Those adept in literary criticism are not always well grounded in theology, and vice versa. O
Biblical studies & exegesis
Publication Date:
Pickwick Publications
Country of origin:
United States
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