In this paper, delivered at the March 2017 meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association, I discuss my experience with teaching sermons at Marshall University, a public institution in Huntington, WV. I have done this in four classes over the past several years: “Good Essays” (a 200-level general-education course in the English Department); “God Talk” (another gen-ed course, team-taught with a faculty member in religious studies); “Sermon: Text and Performance” (a 400-level class in the Honors College); and “The Victorian Spoken Word” (a graduate seminar in English).
The audiences were very different, as were the texts we used (Newman, Spurgeon, and other Victorians in “Good Essays” and the graduate seminar, a mix of countries and time periods in the other two) and the amount of time we spent on sermons in each class (one class period in “Good Essays” and “Spoken Word,” two weeks in “God Talk,” and the entire semester in the Honors class). I discuss why I chose the texts I did (and, in the case of the Honors class, what led me to create an entire course on preaching), how I presented them in class, and how the students responded to them. I also offer some remarks about what these experiences taught me about the challenges and opportunities that come with teaching religious rhetoric in a secular environment.
Ellison, Robert. “Four Case Studies in Teaching Sermons at a Public University,” Translingual and Transcultural Competence: Toward a Multilingual Future in the Global Era, Northeast Modern Language Association, 25 March 2017, Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, Baltimore, Maryland. Conference Presentation.