Islam and the economy of the senses in renaissance English literature

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English literature of the early modern period generally portrays Islam as a sensual religion, and Muslims are often depicted as idolaters. This is strange, because English people of the period were, in fact, keenly aware of Islam's iconoclastic credentials. "Puritans" in particular were often interested in, and sometimes sympathetic to, Islam for this reason. However, it would have been culturally and legally unacceptable to represent Islam as superior to Protestant Christianity in any religious regard. Consequently, early modern English writers often displace Islamic iconoclasm onto spheres such as the economy. The fact that they were able to do this shows that they conceived of the economic and religious spheres as parts of an interdependent social totality, each element of which affects all the others. This kind of totalizing approach can be useful even in the modern world, as it helps to understand the ethical implications of usury and exchange-value.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-159
Number of pages16
JournalSenses and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010


  • Commodity
  • Fetishism
  • Idolatry
  • Islam
  • Magic
  • Usury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication


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