The Revelation of Jesus Christ by Anne Wentworth, an electronic edition. Edited with an introduction by Vickie Taft
- critical introduction
- Section: Textual analysis of "The Revelation of Jesus Christ"by Anne Wentworth
collection: Early Modern through the 18th Century
- Section: General Analysis
- Section: Structure
- Section: Literary Form
- Section: Apocalyptic Imagery and Themes and the Discourse of "Holy Violence"
- Section: The Woman Prophet's Discourse of Personal Weakness
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Any stylistic examination of "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" must begin with a discussion of how one can analyze prophetic writing that the author posits as the Word of God and not her own. To attribute authorial strategy to Wentworth may appear to imply that she fraudulently assigns God's authority to her text. As is discussed later in this textual analysis, Wentworth may, indeed, employ a validatory strategy in" The Revelation when she claims that she does not contribute to the text's composition. However, one cannot doubt the sincerity of Wentworth's belief that God inspired her words, even if she did not really believe that He directly authored her texts. In her earlier tract "A Vindication, she admits that her writing ability is the result of seven years' practice, but insists that God is still ultimately responsible for both her mastery of writing and for her texts' prophetic content:
And he [God] afterwards revealed to me, (what I did not then know) that my oppressions and deliverance had a Publick Ministry and meaning wrapt up in them, that it must be seven years before I could perfect that writing, and the Lord would bring forth his end in all this ("A "Vindication 12, B2 verso-original italics, brackets added).
It is possible, then, to structurally analyze "The Revelation" and to attribute authorial strategy to Wentworth without questioning the sincerity of her belief that she was delivering the word of God in her writings even if she was not delivering them by rote.
Besides being potentially complicated by Wentworth's assertion that this text was authored by God, a textual analysis of "The Revelation" is also complicated by the fact that, structurally and formally, it does not readily fall into any particular genre. It lacks a plot structure and consists of a seemingly random mixture of unusual prose and poetic forms. Thematically, however, it is clearly apocalyptic. Throughout the text, Wentworth, as Christ's amanuensis, relates His prophecy that the Apocalypse is coming when all sinners, especially Wentworth's own persecutors, will be punished. Wentworth, moreover, engages in several modes of discourse employed by other seventeenth-century prophetic writers. Specifically, she uses the discourse of "holy violence" adopted by both men and women prophetic writers, and a discourse of "holy weakness" adopted by women prophetic writers in particular. Though "The Revelation" may appear singular to the modern reader, it shares many structural and authorial features with other apocalyptic and prophetic writings from the same era, especially those written by women, and is thus generically classifiable as seventeenth-century apocalyptic writing.