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Mortal ThoughtsReligion, Secularity, & Identity in Shakespeare and Early Modern Culture$
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Brian Cummings

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199677719

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199677719.001.0001

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The Writer as Martyr

The Writer as Martyr

(p.92) 3 The Writer as Martyr
Mortal Thoughts

Brian Cummings

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers John Foxe's ‘Book of Martyrs’ in the context of the history of selfhood and the construction of modernity. By reinventing the idea of martyrdom and sainthood (from the idolization of the saintly body to an idealization of the moment of witness), Foxe's book creates a radical ambiguity about personal autonomy and political ideology. The chapter first examines the biographical and autobiographical legacy surrounding the death of Thomas Cranmer. It considers experimental forms of documentary history produced by Foxe. The chapter then moves on to examine the wood-cut images placed by the printer John Day in Foxe's book, including Cranmer, Thomas Bilney, Thomas Tomkins, and Rose Allen. The new form of martyr bears witness to the truth through reading and writing, in ways which point to the modern emergence of ideas such as the writer as prisoner of conscience.

Keywords:   martyrdom, saint, woodcut, autobiography, biography, reading

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