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Poetic RelationsIntimacy and Faith in the English Reformation$
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Constance M. Furey

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226434155

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226434292.001.0001

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(p.127) 4 Marriage
Poetic Relations

Constance M. Furey

University of Chicago Press

The fourth chapter, “Marriage,” follows poets to the Americas, where covenantal theology triangulated love between humans and God in devotional poems about marriage. For Puritans, love avowed between persons was the foundation for the covenant between believers and God and represents a key reason why the covenant was itself understood as a marriage. Focusing especially on work by two canonical Puritan poets, Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor, I argue that their vision of contractual intimacy and mandated affection presents an alternative both to sentimental and utilitarian notions of marriage. Their fascination with the interplay between freedom and restraint, manifest in the form as well as the content of their poetry, produced a distinctive expression of relational virtue closely related to instrumentalist ways of evaluating relationships. As dogma, this vision of contractual love has all the problems of any totalizing vision, especially when it can be (as it so often has been) imposed by Christianity’s formidable array of disciplinary practices. But as poetry, it offers a compellingly specific utopian vision of marital love.

Keywords:   Anne Bradstreet, Edward Taylor, Puritan marriage, covenantal theology

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