Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Raymond A. Mentzer
The Family of Love was a religious collective that emerged in the Low Countries during the Reformation and settled in England in the latter half of the sixteenth century. It was a casualty of entrenched doctrinal disagreement and the sensationalism of popular print culture. Yet, there is reason to believe that Familists were very much a part of the very society that so vehemently condemned them. While earlier scholars have noted the surprising level to which the group immersed themselves in their local communities, few have specifically addressed the immersion of Familists in their religious and intellectual milieu. This dissertation seeks to uncover the worldview that the Elizabethan Family shared with even its fiercest detractors. Through a close reading of the surviving material, the following chapters reveal a religious climate in England that was far more porous, and far less set-in-stone, than many in the period were willing to admit.
In particular, the dissertation focuses on two, related categories: the religious justifications for outward obedience to authority and the methods of interpreting the "literal" meaning of sacred writings. Familists were notorious for transgressing the accepted boundaries of both categories. As those hostile to the group were eager to point out, they were furtively disobedient and ruthlessly allegorical. My research suggests, to the contrary, that Familist thought often fell within the accepted boundaries of these two categories; only the categories themselves were inchoate. In making this point, this dissertation contributes to a broader interest in the reification of religious traditions at the expense of those less-defined worldviews that contributed to their original development.
Copyright 2011 Douglas FitzHenry Jones