I explore how four prominent figures use despair to comfort the desperate, exploring how despair rhetorically functions throughout a largely religious discursive environment. Focusing on the years between 1580 and 1680, I show that despair allowed writers a rhetorical conceit by which they were able to assuage religious doubts, encourage emotional support, and argue doctrinal contentions. I primarily focus on religious despair, showing that these case studies are capable of simultaneously drawing on residual and emergent notions of a term in order to engage with on-going cultural, legal, and religious controversy. Each chapter focuses on a specific author, including William Shakespeare (Richard II), John Donne (Works), Robert Burton (Anatomy of Melancholy) and John Milton (Paradise Lost).
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2018. Major: English. Advisor: Nabil Matar. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 317 pages.
The Exculpation of the Desperate: Comforting the Desperate in England, 1580-1680.
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