Secular Chains offers an original and richly contextualized account of the relationship between poetry and religious controversy between 1649 and 1745. This was a period of political conflict and intellectual upheaval, in which traditional sources of spiritual authority were variously challenged and transformed. Philip Connell reveals the importance of English literary culture for our understanding of this process, and throws new light on the dynamics of change and continuity between the puritan revolution and the early Enlightenment. Based on extensive research in both printed and manuscript sources, the book combines detailed case studies of major literary figures with a sustained historical narrative linking the republican moment of the 1650s, the conflicts and crises of the Restoration, and the ecclesiastical politics of the early eighteenth century. Milton and Dryden provide the principal focus of the first three chapters, which explore the divisive issue of church settlement in the work of both writers, together with the increasingly prominent rhetoric of anti-clericalism and irreligion in the poetry and polemics of the later seventeenth century.
Subsequent chapters extend the book's argument to the embattled condition of the Church of England in the decades after 1688, and the significant contribution of contemporary literary culture to a range of religious and philosophical argument, from heterodox free-thinking to Newtonian natural theology. Secular Chains demonstrates the close and continued relationship between poetry and religious politics in the age of Milton and Pope, and provides a new framework for understanding this complex and turbulent period in English literary history.
Philip Connell was educated at the University of Liverpool and completed his Ph.D. at King's College, Cambridge. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of English and a Fellow of Selwyn College at the University of Cambridge. He has published widely on English literature and its contexts between 1650 and 1840, with a particular emphasis upon interdisciplinary studies in the fields of poetry, politics, and intellectual history.
PART I: COMMONWEALTH; PART II: RESTORATION; PART III: ENLIGHTENMENT