‘Let everyone examine themselves’: Radical Emotional Reflexivity in Scottish Reformed Protestantism, 1590-1640
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date30/11/2021
Hood, Nathan Cameron James
This thesis argues that radical emotional reflexivity – self-examination of one’s emotions, ‘radical’ because intentional and rigorous – was a central practice in Scottish Protestantism between 1590 and 1640. It was fundamental because Scottish Protestants believed that purposeful identification of emotions could mobilise desired emotional change that would bring communion with God. They evaluated their emotions within a linguistic-conceptual framework which led them to identify their emotions as: a spiritual journey, directed by God, which involved the experience of various ‘supernatural’ emotions. They undertook this practice to evoke emotional change. Consequently, this process was built into corporate worship and motivated zealous Scottish Protestants to write and read personal spiritual narratives. The thesis takes a fresh approach to familiar source material – spiritual diaries, autobiographies, dialogues, poetry, liturgical guides, sermons, and theological treatises – by viewing them through the lens of radical emotional reflexivity. Recent historiography has discredited stereotypes of the emotionally repressed Scottish Presbyterian by showing that early modern Scottish piety had a highly emotional character. However, it has not sufficiently appreciated that the emotional intensity of the source material was the product of a rigorous self-reflective process used to provoke spiritual change. This is because recent writing has not engaged with the function of language about emotion built into corporate religious practice and personal piety. As a result, this project provides a comprehensive analysis of the vocabulary of emotion and its purpose in early modern Scottish Protestantism, and consequently explains why the source material was created and presented Scottish Protestant piety as highly emotional. The argument begins with an outline of the theory of emotion (chapter 1) and the end-goal against which Scottish Protestants judged their emotions: happiness in enjoying God (chapter 2). The next chapter examines the language Scots used about their emotions in corporate worship and personal piety. It argues that in both contexts Scottish Protestants evaluated their emotions as a spiritual journey under God’s hand, the subjective dimension of salvation (chapter 3). Then follows an analysis of what Scottish Protestants meant when they identified ‘supernatural’ emotions as feelings caused by God and as perceptions of communion with God (chapter 4). Finally, the thesis argues that Scottish Protestants engaged in radical emotional reflexivity to mobilise desired emotions, which explains why they wrote and read narratives of the soul’s spiritual journey (chapter 5). In sum, this study examines what judgements Scottish Protestants made about their emotions, how they made these judgements, and why they evaluated their emotions at all.