Contextualist scholars working on the rhetoric of corporeal presence in seventeenth-century English religious lyrics have naturally focused their attention on sacramental discourse of the Reformation era. As part of the Common Knowledge symposium on the future of contextualism, this full-length monograph, serialized in installments, argues that the contextualist focus on a single and time-limited “epistemic field” has resulted in a less than adequately ramified understanding of the poetry of John Donne, George Herbert, Aemilia Lanyer, and John Milton. What the contextualist approach misses is that even the religious discourses of the period were tied to a long and in no way local epistemological debate about signs and their meaning, whose roots are to be found in Greek and Latin rhetorical theory. This first installment of “Tokens of Love” commences a discussion of the role of classical pagan sign-theory in the development of Reformation sacramental discourse.

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