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By Richard Connors

Neither the meliorist political tradition of the nascent American republic nor its later float towards apocalyptically tinged 'fundamentalist' Protestantism and dispensationalism should be defined outdoors the context of the shared Anglo-American traditions and practices of millennial expectation and apocalyptic angst--whether expressed through early colonists, Milton, Blake, Miller or the Continental Congress. during this chronologically direct and thematically diversified quantity, 5 students operating in 3 targeted disciplines (Religion, English literature, and historical past) procedure millennialism and apocalypticism within the British and Anglo-American contexts, making impressive contributions either to the research of non secular, literary and political tradition within the English-speaking ecumene, and, no less than implicitly, to the critique of disciplinary exclusivity. merely in such combined corporation does the examine of the millennial nexus in English and American faith, tradition, literature and politics, from the time of Milton to the time of the Millerites, come into concentration.

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On the apocalyptic potential of this apotheosis see Robin Headlam Wells, Spenser’s Faerie Queene and the Cult of Elizabeth (Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble Books, 1982). 42 On New England premillennialism see Stephen J. Stein, “Transatlantic Extentions: Apoclyptic in Early New England” in The Apocalypse in English Renaissance Thought and Literature 266–298. ” 43 I quote from the first English translation: A Revelation of the Apocalypse (Amsterdam, 1611), 389, 701. ”44 Brightman’s emphasis on continuity in this statement, as well as the idea of “continuance” that he repeatedly underscores in his comments on Revelation 20, results partly from his sense of the limited role human effort will play in summoning the millenarian kingdom.

33 It is true that the Tudors tend to view Christ’s return as the judgment rather than culmination of history, and that they doubt the ability of human action to influence the final effects of God’s cosmic plan. Yet this pessimism emerges only in the relation between history and the Apocalypse; the Tudors have no more despair about these two things, taken on their own, than did the later millenarians. The Tudors are as optimistic as the later millenarians about eschatology, confident in Christ’s inevitable victory on the final day.

It would be impossible, I think, to locate a single cause of this monumental shift in apocalyptic theology. 39 The first is the 1588 defeat of the Spanish Armada, which, when they conceived of it in apocalyptic terms, struck English commentators as a rather decisive defeat of Antichrist on earth. 40 The second factor is the quasi-apotheosis of Elizabeth in poetic epideixis that proliferated in the 1580s and 1590s. The intensification of her image from godly monarch to goddess, though usually taken at its metaphorical face-value, produced a link in some late-Tudor minds between England and divine favor.

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