Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Snider, Alvin

First Committee Member

Gilbert, Miriam

Second Committee Member

Sponsler, Claire

Third Committee Member

Greteman, Blaine

Fourth Committee Member

Mentzer, Raymond


My dissertation, Unspeakable Joy: Rejoicing in Early Modern England, claims that the act of rejoicing--expressing religious joy--was a crucial rhetorical element of literary works in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century in England. The expression of religious joy in literature functioned as a sign of belief and sanctification in English Protestant theology, and became the emotive articulation of a hopeful union between earthly passion and an anticipated heavenly feeling. By taking into account the historical-theological definitions of joy in the reformed tradition, I offer new readings of late sixteenth-century and early seventeenth-century texts, including the Sidney Psalms, Donne's sermons, Spenser's Epithalamion, Richard Rogers's spiritual diaries, and Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. I suggest that much of early modern poetics stems from a desire, on behalf of writers, to articulate the ineffable joy so often described by sermons and tracts. By establishing Renaissance emotional expression as a source of religious epistemology and negotiating the cognitive and constructive understandings of emotion, I show that religious rejoicing in Elizabethan Protestantism consists of a series of emotive speech acts designed to imitate the hoped-for joys of heaven. Finally, these readings emphasize the ways in which rejoicing not only functions as a reaffirmation of belief in and commitment to the state church but also becomes the primary agent for spiritual affect by bestowing grace on an individual believer.


Emotion, Joy, Protestant, Puritan, Rejoicing, Renaissance


vii, 220 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 211-220).


Copyright 2012 James S. Lambert

Additional Files

FinalDoctoralAbstract.pdf (51 kB)