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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Jaime Goodrich


This dissertation investigates the ways in which John Milton and three radical female prophets, Mary Cary, Anna Trapnel, and Dorothy White, utilize literary genres and prophetic forms to build readerships that are favorable to their millennial visions in the 1640s and 1660s. By analyzing their literary strategies to appropriate the idea of the millennium to call for a national renewal through a combination of historicist and formalist approaches, this dissertation seeks to redress critical neglect over how their poetics serves to build pro-republican readerships that advocate their revolutionary causes. More specifically, it examines their development of a plain poetics which informs and defends their political and religious ideals, offering a useful context and perspective for investigating their different literary capitals in formulating literary strategies that intend to form sympathetic readerships. Although Milton and the female prophets pursue the shared goal of linking simplicity and sincerity in worship, social manners, and aesthetics through literary forms, this critical comparison demonstrates that their plain aesthetics differs greatly due to the difference in the literary capital available to them, such as their social status, gender, or political positions. By providing a detailed analysis of their formal choices, poetic experimentations, and stylistic innovations within similar historical, socio-political contexts, this dissertation argues that focusing on differences in literary capital and strategies enables us to properly understand the role of non-conformist aesthetics and the literary achievements of Milton and the female prophets from a more integrated perspective of seventeenth-century prophetic literature. Through a blend of historicist and formalist approaches to their literary characteristics and achievements across gender boundaries, this dissertation provides a case study that helps resolve the critical disjunction in the study of early modern British women’s literature and of early modern British literature.

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