‘Raiment of needlework’: ornament and the church in 17th-century English literature

Event Date: 
21 Jun 2017

Seminar in Religion and Literature at Queen Mary University of London


Place: QMUL Mile End Campus, Graduate Centre room 222 (18 on the campus map)
Time: 5.15-6.45pm


Prof. Alison Shell (UCL)



The Reformation engendered radical uncertainty about the legitimacy and function of ornament. The Protestant desire to go back to basics, especially in its Calvinist manifestations, sheared away everything that was deemed unnecessary from the fabric of the church, modes of worship and the doctrine underlying that worship; often enough, superfluity was twinned with idolatry. The reaction from this way of thinking brought about Counter-Reformation appeals to the senses, and the liturgical fastidiousness of Laudians and other high-churchmen.  Using a series of case-studies drawn from 17th-century English literature, this paper will explore how, against this background, the very notion of ornament became the focus of ideological instability, doublethink and unease.