Anna Trapnel Forever: Life Writing and the Risk of Eternity

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

This paper considers the representation of ‘relative time’ in the apocalyptic work of Anna Trapnel. Trapnel believes that she is living through the ‘fifth monarchy’, a brief age of spiritual turmoil which advents the end of the world. In her autobiographical work, written in the wake of the bloody Civil Wars in seventeenth century England, she explores her own feelings of entrapment and stasis, while looking outwards to the expanse of a cosmos that is divinely fated to collapse. Her life writing and her poems are insistently bound to the idea of time: the span of her own life, and the coming of the final days of earth, obsessed with what it means to record the painstaking details of one’s own life and to negotiate that life within the infinity of God’s time. Trapnel is acutely aware of her present moment, engaging in the ever-shifting politics under Cromwell’s parliament, while at the same time insisting such moments are temporary and that true salvation can only be found in the timeless after-space of heaven.


Dr Laura Jayne Wright is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Newcastle University, UK, where she works on auditory hallucinations and sensory experience in women’s prophetic writing. Her first monograph, Sound Effects: Hearing the Early Modern Stage (Manchester, 2023), examined early modern sound effects and their capacity to unsettle the spatial dynamics of the playhouse. Her Cambridge Element, Shakespeare’s Visionary Women (Cambridge, 2023), considers the ways in which women’s dreams and visions offer a space for political protest which is heard by powerful men but rarely heeded.

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