To teach, move, meditate, and oppose : Lucy Hutchinson's rhetoric in Order and Disorder.
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Lucy Hutchinson’s biblical poetic paraphrase, Order and Disorder, employs rhetorical strategies that enable her to teach and move her audience, meditate for her own spiritual benefit, and oppose the atomistic doctrine of Lucretius. In this dissertation, I begin to examine the poem using a rhetorical analysis that draws upon the Aristotelian causes as a framework. The poem’s final cause is to persuade Dissenting readers to trust and praise divine Providence and to pursue virtue; its formal cause is a type of plain style that relies upon tropes and sparingly employs schemes; and its material cause is the biblical story that the poem paraphrases, while weaving other biblical texts, images, and ideas into the Genesis narrative. This analysis of Hutchinson’s Non-Conformist rhetoric sheds light on the Calvinist Dissenter plain style, demonstrating how her interpretive strategies align with her Biblicism and distinguish her writing from Enlightenment rationalist notions of “plain.” It also reads the poem as a meditation, showing that Hutchinson’s rhetoric functions both to persuade herself as well as her Dissenting readers in the midst of difficult political and personal circumstances in the aftermath of the Restoration. This analysis of the character of Non-Conformist rhetoric highlights the various ways in which Hutchinson’s poem contests Lucretius’s atomism and epistemology. This study sketches a more thorough picture of Hutchinson’s rhetorical aesthetic than scholars have yet completed. It demonstrates that this seventeenth-century woman’s biblical epic poem places her in the position of not only a poet but also a teacher of doctrine, a rhetorician who moves her audience, a private Christian meditating on Scripture for the sake of her own soul, and an intellectual who directly counters Lucretian philosophy.