Ann Thompson, The Art of Suffering and the Impact of Seventeenth-Century Anti-Providential Thought (Ashgate, 2003).
This book gives a useful insight into the decline of the ‘art of suffering’ in the seventeenth century. As Thompson explains, during the earlier part of the century, writers like Richard Rogers, Paul Baynes, John Downame, Henry Scudder, Thomas Gouge, Nicolas Byfield, Thomas Taylor, Edward Reyner and Isaac Ambrose discourse on the ‘voluntaristic art of suffering’, teaching ‘both how to “cope with” and how to “grow from”’ affliction. From the 1640s on, though, she notes the emergence of a different kind of discourse, teaching the sufferer only how to ‘cope with’ affliction, not how to ‘grow from’ it. This kind of discourse is exemplified by writers like William Perkins, Joseph Hall, Jeremiah Burroughs, Thomas Watson, Jeremy Taylor, Simon Patrick, Thomas Brooks, Richard Baxter, William Bates, Richard Allestree and Nathaniel Spinckes.
The drawback to her work is that it feels rather too much like what it is – a PhD thesis worked up into a book.There’s an abiding sense that it was written to satisfy the examiners, rather than engage a more general readership. If you can get past that, though, it marshals quite a lot of evidence (admittedly from a fairly narrow range of sources) and makes some useful points.
Jan Frans van Dijkhuizen, Pain and Compassion in Early Modern English Literature and Culture (D.S. Brewer, 2012)
This came out after I had submitted my manuscript to the publishers, and I was therefore not able to make use of it in my own work. However, Dijkhuizen wrote ‘Religious Meanings of Pain in Early Modern England’, in The Sense of Suffering: Constructions of Physical Pain in Early Modern Culture (Brill, 2009), of which he was also co-editor, which made useful background reading.
This is another book I found very useful in my work on early modern attitudes towards suffering. Virgina Burrus, The Sex Lives of Saints (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), discusses the saints of the early Christian period, but it got me thinking about how the accounts of these saints were received in the early modern period. Her treatment of a passage from Saint Jerome prompted me to conduct a survey of translations of that passage into various European languages during the early modern period. The fact that they all, to some extent, censored the original passage proved very useful to my thesis. The Catholic Historical Review contains a good review of this work.
Of all the modern scholarship I consulted in the writing of my own book, Melissa E. Sanchez, Erotic Subjects: The Sexuality of Politics in Early Modern English Literature (OUP, 2011) was probably the one I liked best. Admittedly, my reasons for liking it are very subjective – its treatment of the issue of the discursive feminization of the political subject in early modern English discourse was invaluable to the development of my thesis – but beyond that I think it’s also written in a lively and engaging way, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the topic. There’s a good review of it here.