EMERG ONLINE: Sermons
20 January 2021, 5:00 pm–6:00 pm
In this meeting of the English Department’s Early Modern English Reading Group (EMERG), various aspects of Renaissance sermons will be discussed, and more. Please see the advance reading below, which contains extracts from John Donne, Lancelot Andrewes, George Herbert, and others.
‘Andrewes takes a word and derives the world from it; squeezing and squeezing the word until it yields a juice full of meaning which we should never have supposed any word to possess.’ (T. S. Eliot, For Lancelot Andrewes, 1928)
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England, sermons were amongst the most popular genres of writing available in print to English readers. Reading sermons, as well as attending them in person, formed a key aspect of early modern life which penetrated every section of English society, from the court to the universities and far beyond. News of political events, like the Jacobean succession, was delivered from the pulpit, as was confessional polemic, while sermons in memory of civic and religious figures drew wide audiences in London and further afield.
Renaissance sermons, however, are also literary artefacts. In recent years, sermons have increasingly come into focus for literary scholars interested in the connections between humanist rhetorical culture and religious life, and the often fraught relationship between stylistic ornamentation and sacred themes. These texts offer a window onto English engagements with holy writings in Greek and Hebrew at a time when literacy in these languages, even among highly educated Englishmen, was far from widespread, and provide an opportunity to witness writes grappling at close range with textual cruces, problems of interpretation, and the difficulties presented by translation. Yet as well as providing vivid displays of erudition and scholarly ingenuity, sermons were also texts that were performed by energetic preachers to enraptured audiences, whose engagement with the text was aural, rather than visual.
In this meeting of the English Department’s Early Modern English Reading Group (EMERG), we will consider each of these aspects of Renaissance sermons, and more. Please see the advance reading below, which contains extracts from John Donne, Lancelot Andrewes, George Herbert, and others.
This event will run via Zoom - the link will be circulated via the EMERG mailing list.
For more information, and to be added to EMERG’s mailing list, please contact Fraser McIlwraith (email@example.com) and Kate Kinley (firstname.lastname@example.org). We are keen to accept submissions in advance in advance of our meetings, so if you would like to recommend an extract from a Renaissance text, please contact us.