Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

The case for prophecy: politics, gender and self-representation in 17th-century prophetic discourses

Carmen Font Paz



R It has been suggested that women prophets in the culture of seventeenth-century England represent the first significant group of women to establish the political authority of self-conscious female identity, and that as such they stand for a foundational moment in the development of modern feminist consciousness. This article argues that the political, religious and social upheavals in the English Revolution witnessed an unprecedented outburst of prophetic speech among women. As a result, women prophets forged a widely-read and persuasive literary genre which suited both their private and public concerns; at the same time, this venue allowed them to approach a sense of feminine writing away from the topos found in the Querelles des femmes, thus contributing to the formation of a prehistory of novelistic discourse. Focusing on the persuasive narrative of Lady Eleanor Davies, this article shows how prophetesses used a deeply personal rhetorical discourse which appropriates the voice and the manner of the Hebrew prophets of old. Many female visionaries understood themselves to be called by God to warn political leaders, and calls to prophesy and to intervention in the public sphere could take the form of anagrams, dramatic visions, complex dreams or carefully plotted exegetical commentary.


Discourse analysis; Prophetic discourse; Religious writings; Women prophets; Persuasion; 17th century


Copyright (c) 2009 Carmen Font Paz

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