Reverend Edward Taylor’s Sacramental Meditations on the Song of Songs

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This text is the first to employ and semiotic theory, gender and sexuality studies to render a fresh reading of Taylor’s erotically charged devotion


“…a substantive contribution to this tradition of interpretation of the Song. It is also an important contribution to the study of the literature of early American Protestant spirituality and to the discipline of spirituality itself.” – Prof. Sandra M. Schneiders, Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara and the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California.

“…yields new insights not only into Taylor, but also into the varieties of religious experience embraced by Puritan spirituality, timely, given the revival of interest in Protestant spirituality.” – Prof. Joseph D. Driskill, Pacific School of Religion

“Weaving biography and history together with theology, poetics, and cultural studies, Hessel-Robinson has produced an illuminative study of one of colonial America’s most important Christian authors.” – Prof. Arthur Holder, Graduate Theological Union

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Introduction

Interpreting Edward Taylor

Edward Taylor’s Life and Work

Chapter 2: “The Mirror of Divine Love:” The Song of Songs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Protestant Commentary

Hermeneutic Transitions

Protestant Interpretations of the Song of Songs:

Reactions and Retrievals

Chapter 3: “Of Spices and Sweet flowers, reeks of Perfumes:” The Senses in Edward Taylor’s Spirituality

Desire and Delight in Reformed Spirituality

The Context of Puritan Natural Philosophy

The Senses in English Devotional Literature
The Senses in Edward Taylor’s Meditations: Smell

The Senses in Edward Taylor: Sight

The Senses in Edward Taylor: Sound

Chapter 4: “This Rich Banquet Makes Me thus a Poet:” The Eucharist and Edward Taylor’s Spirituality

Reformed Eucharistic Theology: John Calvin

Early Puritan Eucharistic Theology

The Halfway Covenant and the Stodderean Controversy

Edward Taylor’s Eucharistic Theology

The Song of Songs as Language of the Feast

Chapter 5:“Let My Heart Embrace Thy Loveliness: The Erotic Dimensions of Edward Taylor’s Spirituality

Allegory as Sublimation?

Puritan Attitudes Toward Sexuality and Marriage

Christ, the Suitor

Longing for Union

Conception, Pregnancy, and Child Bearing

Erotic Evocations



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