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Marvelous Protestantism

, 282 pages

44 halftones

December 2011



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Marvelous Protestantism

Monstrous Births in Post-Reformation England

In post-Reformation England, "monster" could mean both a horrible aberration and a divine embodiment or revelation. In Marvelous Protestantism, Julie Crawford examines accounts of monstrous births and the strikingly graphic illustrations accompanying them in popular pamphlets, demonstrating how Protestant reformers used these accounts to guide their public through the spiritual confusion and social turmoil of the time.

Traditionally, accounts of monstrous births and other marvelous occurrences have been analyzed in relationship to the tabloid press or the rise of modern science. Crawford focuses instead on the ways in which broadsheets and pamphlets served a new religion desperately trying to establish clear guidelines for religious and moral behavior during a period of political uncertainty. Perceptively showing how monstrous births implicated women as reproductive forces, Crawford demonstrates how women were responsible for the reproduction of Protestantism itself, whether robust or grotesquely misconceived.

Through its examination of the nature of propaganda and early modern reading practices, and of the central role women played in Protestant reform, Marvelous Protestantism establishes a new approach to interpreting post-Reformation English culture.

Julie Crawford is an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University.

"An exciting piece of original scholarship, from which literary critics, historians, and gender scholars will gain insights into the workings of popular culture and literary imagination. Written in a clear and convincing style, and with an entertaining, generous supply of visual material, the work is consistently illuminating, engaging and fresh."

"An important contribution to the field, essential reading."

"She brings an impressive historical knowledge and an admirable rhetorical control to her compelling material."

"A significant contribution to our understanding of the process of reform in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England."

"Crawford's knowledgeable and precise historical narrative of the figure of the monster offers a revelatory new perspective."

"Her book is an enjoyable read in terms of content and style, and her sensitivity to the particular times, places, and socio-political contexts in which these narratives were produced is admirable. Marvelous Protestantism should be on the shelves of those who wish to understand this period fully."