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One FleshParadisal Marriage and Sexual Relations in the Age of Milton$
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James Grantham Turner

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198182498

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198182498.001.0001

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The Crisis of the Imagination

The Crisis of the Imagination

Seventeenth-Century Visionary and Libertine Theories of Primeval Sexuality

Chapter:
(p.124) 4 The Crisis of the Imagination
Source:
One Flesh
Author(s):

James Grantham Turner

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198182498.003.0005

This chapter explores the allegorists, visionaries, and factious libertines of the mid-17th century, using critical terms derived from Calvin, Donne, and Browne. Throughout the interpretation-history of Genesis, the fundamental questions of sexuality and gender have been entangled with another problem of ‘knowledge’, the uncertain status of the mental faculties loosely called ‘imagination’. The personal conviction of prophetic inspiration, abundant in the 17th century, was treated with great suspicion. This chapter explores some of the independent interpreters, religious leaders, and creative artists who sought alternatives to the standard fundamentalist reading of Genesis. There still exists a common assumption, from Augustine to the founders of Protestantism, that exegesis should be constrained by a principle of local realism, a concern to reconcile and rationalize the events of Genesis as far as the supreme fiction of salvation-history allows.

Keywords:   primeval sexuality, 17th century, Boehme, van Helmont, carnal knowledge, libertine theories, imagination

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