I begin with the problem of method: how to write a study of Renaissance culture which is at once materialist, therefore relentless in its criticism of religion, and historicist, therefore obliged to proceed immanently through a text's own terminology without resolving theological propositions into their secular, inevitably modern equivalents. A sixteenth century text should be stripped of its divinity, I argue, only if historical materialism has first been stripped of its secularism. Only then can the theological problems for which I substitute economic, social contradiction remain intact as genuine theological problems. The more Christianity one finds in Marx, in other words, the more economics appears inextricably a part of Christian theology. As a result, the more intelligible and vital will be their constant interpenetration in the literature of the English Reformation. Each chapter treats from a different perspective the conflict between Christianity's understanding of grace as an unearned gift and its vilification of usury and theft as unearned wealth. This generally took the form of a conflict between "true" Christianity and its variously figured others: Judaism, Protestantism, Catholicism. Luther combined his critique of the latter with an attack on Jewish usury but reserved a legitimate place for the profits of credit under the name of faith. Marx's allusions to Shylock pepper his analysis of this Lutheran theology of credit and prompt a reinterpretation of The Merchant of Venice centering on the place of the oath in the economics of incarnation. Later I turn to Luther's impact on the English Bible---Tyndale's substitution of trespasses for debts in the Lord's Prayer, the suppression of thievery in Coverdale's NT---and examine how John Foxe, in the life of Simon Fish, represents the political and economic machinations (monastic dissolution above all) in which these translations participated. Lastly I arrive at Marlowe's Jew of Malta, arguing for Barabas as an effect of the official Biblical, economic, theological consolidation that preceded his first appearance on stage (c1593) and then, when he finally makes his way into print forty years later, as an indication of the changes played upon the Reformation by a later, revolutionary decade.
Thesis (Ph.D. in English) -- University of Pennsylvania, 1999. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 60-07, Section: A, page: 2507. Adviser: Margreta de Grazia.