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John Foxe and the Joy of Suffering

John R. Knott
The Sixteenth Century Journal
Vol. 27, No. 3 (Autumn, 1996), pp. 721-734
DOI: 10.2307/2544014
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2544014
Page Count: 14
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John Foxe and the Joy of Suffering
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Abstract

John Foxe rejected the early Christian and medieval emphasis on the exceptional nature of martyrs and on the disjunction between vulnerable body and transported soul, focusing instead on the human qualities of his Protestant martyrs and the communal experience of the persecuted faithful, which becomes the locus of the sacred. He avoided the miraculous in attempting to reconcile representations of horrific suffering with traditional affirmations of the inner peace and joy of the martyr. Much of the drama of the Acts and Monuments arises from intrusions of the ordinary (the gesture of wiping a sooty hand on a smock) and the unpredictable (a fire that will not burn). It is Foxe's deviations from the unwritten script of martyrdom and his occasional inability to contain the horror of a scene with assertions of spiritual triumph that give his narrative its power.

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