Change-ringing occupies a strange position in English history, ubiquitous but virtually unstudied. This project investigates the philosophical and aesthetic underpinnings of change-ringing’s seventeenth-century development, using ringing literature and contemporary poetry to trace themes of circularity and ordered change in both content and structure. I conclude that the poets and ringers of the seventeenth century devised their unique aesthetic modes in order to create universally mimetic experiences that solidify faith in divine providence.


Emma Stanford



Marion Wells

Sponsor and Associate Professor of English and American Literatures


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Grateful Vicissitude (PDF)

This project was inspired by my junior year abroad at the University of Oxford, during which I took up the esoteric hobby of change-ringing. Thanks to a research grant from the Mellon Foundation, I spent last summer in England researching the early history of change-ringing and its ideological parallels in seventeenth-century poetry, particularly the work of John Milton. “Grateful Vicissitude,” which I wrote this spring as a senior honors essay in Literary Studies, explains the phenomenon and history of change-ringing and then delves into its religious and philosophical roots, with help from ringing-chamber poetry and bell inscriptions. To support my analysis, I also draw from poetry by Donne, Herbert, and Milton, focusing on the portrayal of divine providence in both substance and structure across disciplines.



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