Joanna Picciotto, English, Berkeley

Monday, November 3, 2014
4:30 pm
Social Sciences Tea Room (SS201)

Request a copy of the paper by emailing

A key primary text for Professor Picciotto’s paper is Godfrey Goodman’s pamphlet, “The Creatures Praysing God.” Reading it is entirely optional—familiarity with it will not be necessary for our workshop discussion.

“Implicit Faith, ‘Avant-Garde Conformity,’ and the Religious Life of Animals”

Presented in collaboration with the Renaissance Workshop. This event is made possible by generous support from the Nicholson Center for British Studies.

This paper will explore some of the paradoxes of agency associated with implicit faith. Although reformers identified it with the destruction of Christian liberty, in post-Reformation England the concept elicited some surprisingly complex meditations on the relation between agency and passivity in all assent. A brief survey of these will provide the context for an analysis of Godfrey Goodman’s argument, in The Creatures Praysing God: or, The Religion of Dumbe Creatures (1622), that implicit faith is the foundation of the religious life of animals. Focusing on the treatise’s strategic oscillation between the objective and subjective senses of key verbs like “confess” and “discover,” I will explore Goodman’s construction of animals not only as exemplars of obedience but as perfect liturgical subjects—a habit that has persisted in various forms into the modern age (e.g. in Kierkegaard’s “The Lily of the Field and the Bird under Heaven” and David Abram’s “Becoming Animal”).

Refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Bill Hutchison (

Find our full workshop schedule here.