Stereotypes and stereotyping in early modern England

Puritans, papists and projectors

Editor:
Koji Yamamoto
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Early modern stereotypes are often studied as evidence of popular belief, something mired with prejudices and commonly held assumptions. This volume of essays goes beyond this approach, and explores practices of stereotyping as contested processes. To do so the volume draws on recent works on social psychology and sociology. The volume thereby brings together early modern case studies, and explores how stereotypes and their mobilisation shaped various negotiations of power, in spheres of life such as politics, religion, everyday life and knowledge production. The volume highlights early modern men’s and women’s remarkable creativity and agency: godly reformers used the ‘puritan’ stereotype to understand popular aversion to religious discipline; Ben Jonson developed the characters of the puritan and the projector in ways that helped diffuse anxieties about fundamental problems in early modern church and state; playful allusions to London’s ‘sin and sea coal’ permitted a knowing acceptance of urban growth and its moral and environmental costs; Tory polemics accused of ‘popery’ returned the same accusations to Whig Protestants; humanists projected related Christian stereotypes outwards to make sense of Islam and Hinduism in the age of Enlightenment. Case studies collectively point to a paradox: stereotyping was so pervasive and foundational to social life and yet so liable to escalation that collective engagements with it often ended up perpetuating the very processes of stereotyping. By highlighting these dialectics of stereotyping, the volume invites readers to make fresh connections between the early modern past and the present without being anachronistic.

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