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17th Century Literature

As far as literature, the 17th century is nobody's child, and nobody's parent. More the heir of the Reformation than the Renaissance, 17th century authors relied on methods of their own choosing, and while most of the poets and novelists were brilliant, few of their ideas caught on. This is largely because the Enlightenment which followed their efforts (and, in the West, spelled the victory of the Renaissance over the Reformation) rejected the God-centered output of men like Milton, Herbert and John Bunyan.

Probably the greatest exemplar of the 17th century ethos was John Donne, called by many the greatest poet ever to write in English. A former reprobate-turned Protestant minister, Donne's poetry is filled with the tension between the flesh and the spirit, a tension clearly felt by all Europeans in the wake of two movements which pit the one against the other. His command of the elasticity of language and its ability to convey sentiments the mind can't even clearly conceive is unparalleled; his love poems and religious poems alike are filled with enthusiasm and reverence.

Every unchained spirit, however, must be kept in balance by those of more stable mind and habits. Such were men like George Herbert, whose devotional verse certainly evokes Donne's passion for God while evidencing a less worldly appetite. Herbert himself was certainly no angel, but his poetry is the testament of a man devoted more to the desire for Christ than to fulfilling the wants of the flesh, and this sentiment was taken up in spades by men like John Bunyan and (across the ocean) Jonathan Edwards.

About halfway through the century, a group of Protestant clergymen and theologians got together in London and hashed out the essence of the Reformed faith. The resulting Westminster Confession of Faith codified the orthodox Calvinist faith, emphasizing Puritan ideals of holy living and covenant theology, and became the foundational document for the Church of England, as well as many Presbyterian churches throughout the world—it is still in use today.

All this isn't to suggest everyone writing in the 17th century was a Christian, especially not in the orthodox sense. Two of the century's most brilliant philosophers—René Descartes and Thomas Hobbes—rejected Divine authority as the basis for human knowledge and argued for a comprehensive construction of truth from "first principles." They both argued for the existence of God, but it was a far different being they described than the one found in the Bible. It was ideas like these that led to the 18th century fluorishing of Enlightenment rationalism.

The 1600s also saw the publication of the first novel written by a woman. Oroonoko is the story of an African slave and his various misadventures after being stripped of his princely rank and degraded by men less noble than himself. An attention to the welfare of underprivileged persons had developed, and this slim little work of fiction (though purported to be a true story) laid the groundwork for similar efforts in subsequent years.

This was a rich literary period, particularly for England, and especially for Christians. Some of the best Christian classics were written during this century, and while there were reprobates at work (some of them brilliant in their own right), the air seemed to clear for religious literature, at least for a brief time and in a limited context. Our selection primarily reflects these works, though we have not been remiss to include altogether secular titles as they have presented themselves to our attention.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

 

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58 Items found Print
Account of Mary Rowlandson and Other Indian Captivity Narratives
by Mary Rowlandson
from Dover Publications
for 9th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
American Poetry
by David S. Shields
from Library of America
for 11th-Adult
in Poetry Anthologies (Location: APO-05A)
Annotated Milton
by John Milton
from Bantam Books
for 11th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Compleat Angler
from Oxford University
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Complete English Poems of George Herbert
Penguin Classics
by George Herbert
from Penguin Classics
Lyrical Poetry for 11th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Complete English Poems of John Donne
Penguin Classics
by John Donne
from Penguin Classics
Lyrical Poetry for 9th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
Cortez & the Conquest of Mexico
by Bernal Diaz del Castillo
from William R. Scott Inc.
for 9th-12th grade
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and Death's Duel
by John Donne
from Vintage Classics
for 11th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Discourse on Method and Related Writings
by Rene Descartes
from Penguin Classics
for 11th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Don Quixote
by Miguel de Cervantes (translation by John Rutherford)
from Penguin Putnam
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Don Quixote
by Miguel de Cervantes (translation by Edith Grossman)
Reprint from Harper Perennial
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Don Quixote
by Miguel de Cervantes (translation by Tom Lathrop)
from Signet Classics
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Don Quixote (abridged)
by Miguel de Cervantes (translation by Walter Starkie)
from Signet Classics
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Dore's Illustrations for "Paradise Lost"
by Gustave Dore
from Dover Publications
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Essay Concerning Human Understanding
by John Locke
from Penguin Classics
Political Philosophy for 11th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
by John Bunyan
from Penguin Classics
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
History of God's Remarkable Providences
by Increase Mather
from Back Home Industries
Historical Non-Fiction for 9th-Adult
in Colonial America (1690-1765) (Location: B01-09A)
Holy War
by John Bunyan
from Christian Focus Publications
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Leviathan
Penguin Classics
by Thomas Hobbes
from Penguin Classics
Political Philosophy for 11th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln
by Gluckel of Hamelin
from Schocken
for 8th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Mind on Fire: Faith for the Skeptical and Indifferent
by Blaise Pascal
New from David C. Cook
for 9th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Misanthrope, Tartuffe and Other Plays
by Molière
8th edition from Oxford University
for 11th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Mourt's Relation
by Dwight B. Heath, editor
from Applewood Books
Primary Source Document for 8th-12th grade
in Pilgrims at Plymouth (Location: B01-08B)
New Atlantis and The City of the Sun: Two Classic Utopias
by Francis Bacon, Tomasso Campanella
from Dover Publications
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Of Plymouth Plantation
by William Bradford
from Vision Forum
Historical Non-Fiction for 9th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Of Plymouth Plantation
by William Bradford
from Dover Publications
for 9th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Of Plymouth Plantation
by William Bradford
from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Historical Non-Fiction for 9th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Oroonoko
by Aphra Behn
from W. W. Norton and Co.
for 11th-Adult
in Clearance: Literature (Location: ACL-LIT)
Paradise Lost
Penguin Classics
by John Milton
2003 Revised from Penguin Classics
Epic Poetry for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Paradise Lost
A Norton Critical Edition
by John Milton
3rd revised from W. W. Norton and Co.
Formal Poetry for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Paradise Lost
by John Milton
from Dover Publications
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained
by John Milton
from Signet Classics
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Pensees
Penguin Classics
by Blaise Pascal
from Penguin Putnam
Philosophy/Religion for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Pilgrim's Progress
by John Bunyan
from Dover Publications
Christian Prose Epic/Allegory for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Pilgrim's Progress
by John Bunyan
from John L. Dagg Publishing
for 10th-adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Pilgrim's Progress
by John Bunyan
from Oxford University
Christian Prose Epic/Allegory for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Pilgrim's Progress
by John Bunyan
from Tyndale House
Christian Prose Epic/Allegory for 9th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Pilgrim's Progress - Study Guide
by Maureen L. Bradley
from P&R Publishing
for 9th-Adult
in British Literature Curriculum (Location: B18-13A)
Pilgrim's Progress in Modern English
by John Bunyan
from Bridge-Logos
Christian Prose Epic/Allegory for 9th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Pilgrim's Progress in Today's English
by John Bunyan
from Moody Press
Christian Prose Epic/Allegory for 9th-Adult
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: A07-02A)
Pilgrim's Progress: Themes and Issues
by Barry Horner
First Edition from Evangelical Press
for 10th-Adult
in Clearance: Literature (Location: ACL-LIT)
Portable Enlightenment Reader
by Isaac Kramnick, Editor
from Penguin Classics
for 12th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Practice of the Presence of God
by Brother Lawrence
New Abridged from Whitaker House
for 9th-Adult
in Spiritual Disciplines (Location: C07-01A)
Practice of the Presence of God with Spiritual Maxims
by Brother Lawrence
from Baker Books
for 11th-Adult
in Spiritual Disciplines (Location: C07-01A)
Practicing His Presence
by Brother Lawrence, Frank Laubach
from Seedsowers
for Adult
in Spiritual Disciplines (Location: C07-01A)
Saint's Everlasting Rest
by Richard Baxter
from Christian Focus Publications
for 11th-Adult
in Puritan Writings (Location: C03-03C)
Second Treatise of Civil Government
by John Locke
from Prometheus Books
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
Selected Poems of John Donne
Dover Thrift Editions
by John Donne
from Dover Publications
Lyrical Poetry for 10th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
Tartuffe and Other Plays
by Jean-Baptiste Moliere
from Signet Classics
for 11th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
The Cid
by Pierre Corneille
from CreateSpace
for 9th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
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