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“Saving Edward Taylor’s Purse” in Literature and Theology

20 February 2009

Last fall I had an article published in Literature and Theology, a pieced entitled, “Saving Edward Taylor’s Purse: Masculine Devotion in the Preparatory Meditations.”  Knowing that many of the readers of this blog don’t have access to academic journals, I’m devoting the next two posts to the main thrust of my argument.

Unless you’ve studied American Puritanism or American poetry in some depth, chances are you aren’t familiar with Edward Taylor.  He was a Puritan minister living in the late 1600s in the fledgling frontier town of Westfield, Massachusetts.  He is a curious figure for various reasons, not least among them that he opted to write hundreds of esoteric, erotic, strongly gendered poems for private devotion in preparation for administering the Lord’s Supper.  What I bring out in my essay is his struggle not only for spiritual authenticity, but for his very masculinity.  The next two posts will elaborate how Taylor seeks to subject himself to God via a feminine persona, and simultaneously to temper radically his masculine authority by risking his “genitals” with God’s masculine initiation.

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