Writing Religious Conflict and Community in Exeter (ReConEx) will explore the role of literature in fashioning religious and communal identities in an early modern regional capital.
Across the early modern period, the city of Exeter played a pivotal role in successive national conflicts, including the Prayerbook Rebellion of 1549, the English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution, and the “Exeter Arian Controversy” in eighteenth-century Dissent. Through these crises, Exeter’s preachers, poets, and printers expounded, defended, and contested visions of faith and fellowship in a city that one minister termed ‘a Beacon upon a hill.’ Although the city may have well appeared marginal and remote from the perspective of London as a literary centre, this very distance encouraged a remarkable diversity among its most notable writers in terms of gender and religious affiliation. Exeter religious writing bears witness to the lived experience of religious belief and practice among people of a variety of religious persuasions within and beyond the established Church as well as negotiating matters of controversy between these communities.
ReConEx brings a fresh, place-based perspective to the writings of such figures as John Hooker (historian and cartographer), his nephew Richard Hooker (leading divine and theorist of the Church of England), Anne Dowriche (author of The French Historie, a versified account of the French Wars of Religion), Anne Vaughan Lock (Genevan exile and author of the first sonnet sequence in English), Robert Herrick (‘Cavalier’ poet and Devon clergyman), and Lady Mary Chudleigh (proto-feminist poet and Christian Platonist). Key works by these writers and others will be included in an anthology of religious writing from the early modern South West, while a series of symposia and conferences will lead to an edited essay collection on the writing of religious identities in the region.