How do big ideas transform the way that we live our everyday lives? And can the poetic production of a period tell us about how ordinary people understood their most important relationships? These questions lie at the heart of Devotional Experience and Erotic Knowledge (Oxford University Press, 2023), a new book written by Dr. Rhema Hokama, assistant professor of English literature in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) cluster at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).
Dr. Hokama’s book explores the literature that was written in the years after the English Reformation, a watershed moment of religious and political revolution in European history. Dr. Hokama maintains that the Reformation changed how English people understood what it meant to have direct access to God, the most important figure in the life of an early modern English Protestant. Dr. Hokama argues that new ideas about the role of the body that emerged from this moment of reform gave English people novel ways of thinking about how they could bodily and sensorily interpret their relationship with God. These theological and historical innovations ushered in by reform also had a profound impact on the way in which English people could now understand the value of many ordinary actions—such as praying, eating, and having sex. Dr. Hokama demonstrates that the Reformation transformed how English people thought about what it meant to know and understand the actions and thoughts of their earthly lovers—and ultimately, themselves.
In exploring the role of the body in the literary production of post-Reformation England, Devotional Experience and Erotic Knowledge presents original interpretations of the poetry of five Renaissance writers: William Shakespeare, Robert Herrick, John Donne, Fulke Greville, and John Milton. In her discussion of official worship in the Church of England as well as of the popular devotional practices of the period, Dr. Hokama contextualizes the literary culture of the English Reformation alongside the writings of the period’s most important religious innovators, including John Calvin, William Perkins, Richard Hooker, and Joseph Hall. In doing so, Dr. Hokama suggests that for early modern English people, bodily experience offered a means of corroborating and verifying devotional truth, making the invisible visible and knowable.
For more information about Devotional Experience and Erotic Knowledge, visit the Oxford University Press listing. Dr. Hokama’s book can be purchased for 30 percent of the list price directly from OUP’s website with the code AAFLYG6.
About the book’s author:
Dr. Rhema Hokama received her PhD in English language and literature from Harvard University and teaches Shakespeare, lyric poetry, and world literature in the HASS cluster at SUTD.