What was distinctive about the founding principles and practices of Quakerism? In George Fox and Early Quaker Culture, Hilary Hinds explores how the Light Within became the organizing principle of this seventeenth-century movement, inaugurating an influential dissolution of the boundary between the human and the divine. Taking an original perspective on this most enduring of radical religious groups, Hinds combines literary and historical approaches to produce a fresh study of Quaker cultural practice. Close readings of Fox’s Journal are put in dialogue with the voices of other early Friends and their critics to argue that the Light Within set the terms for the unique Quaker mode of embodying spirituality and inhabiting the world. In this important study of the cultural consequences of a bedrock belief, Hinds shows how the Quaker spiritual self was premised on a profound continuity between sinful subjects and godly omnipotence. These dimensions of Quaker life are explored through topics which range from rhetoric and confidence to slavery and itinerancy. Paying careful attention to the conventions and idioms of early modern writing, the book demonstrates how Quaker rhetoric reshaped understandings of temporality, spatiality, movement and gendered agency in the second half of the seventeenth century. This study will be of interest not only to scholars and students of seventeenth-century literature and history, but also to those concerned with the Quaker movement, spirituality and the changing meanings of religious practice in the early modern period.
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