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Chapter 3 - From Eve’s Apple to the Bread of Life

Piety and Palate in Devotional Literature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2020

Elizabeth L. Swann
Affiliation:
Durham University
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Summary

This chapter explores how taste’s epistemological utility in the early modern period was compromised by its disreputable moral status: taste was often identified as the cause of Adam and Eve’s fall. Nonetheless, sacramental tasting held out the promise of redemption. Eucharistic practices, I propose, provide a crucial context for the Protestant poetics of authors including George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, and Amelia Lanyer. Frequently, for instance, the language of taste is used – with varying levels of commitment – to affirm the superiority of experiential faith over clerical and scriptural authority. Simultaneously, religious writing, from poetry to polemic, offers a neglected source to uncover popular understandings and experiences of everyday, physical tasting. In particular, even banal, quotidian experiences of eating were conceived of as opportunities for spiritual illumination, precisely – and paradoxically – because of the fallenness of taste.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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