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The Bible in American Life$
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Philip Goff, Arthur Farnsley, and Peter Thuesen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190468910

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190468910.001.0001

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Reading the Bible in a Romantic Era

Reading the Bible in a Romantic Era

(p.69) 5 Reading the Bible in a Romantic Era
The Bible in American Life

Beth Barton Schweiger

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers how a growing taste for poetry changed how readers understood the Bible. Literary sensibilities in the nineteenth century are usually associated with a small coterie of northeastern liberal Protestants. But fascination with poetry and literature flourished among Protestant readers far beyond the confines of liberal Boston. Poetry featured in popular print of all kinds, including religious periodicals, annuals, hymnbooks, and almanacs. This chapter describes the popularity of poetry; the influence of eighteenth-century scholarship, especially the work of Robert Lowth, that argued that the Bible was full of poetry; and the widespread use of the Bible as a subject in the poetry of Felicia Hemans and William Cowper. Considering the popularity of poetry opens an alternative narrative of Christianity in the early United States, which has been examined primarily in the contexts of revival and reform, politics, and theology.

Keywords:   popular print, Felicia Hemans, William Cowper, annuals, religious periodicals, hymnbooks, Robert Lowth, Hebrew poetry

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