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Paper

Presentation #1 Title

Remnants of Rhetorical Humanism in the Non-Conformist “Arts of Listening” of Early Modern England

Presentation #1 Abstract

As with other hardline distinctions once made about the English reformation, the old dichotomy--found in otherwise impressive work by Miller, Shuger, and Davies--between anti-rhetorical puritan and ornate conformist preachers stands in need of revision. Mary Morrissey has explained that framing the difference between these two factions in terms of rhetorical style overlooks the fact that most early moderns would have conceived of preaching as something separate from rhetoric, not a species of oratory at all. Reframing the issue in terms of theological homiletics is, I think, a welcome shift in perspective.

In my presentation, however, I suggest that this reframing risks missing the innovative uses to which non-conformist clergy put the images and principles of rhetorical humanism in what Hunt has called their “arts of listening,” sermons and dialogues written to prepare parishioners to hear the Word proclaimed. Non-conformists such as Robert Wilkinson, William Harrison, Stephen Egerton, and John Brinsley applied commonplaces of rhetorical humanism to the activity, not of the preacher, but of the properly receptive audience. Thus, rhetorical thought did play a role in non-conformist theories of preaching, just not the role one would reflexively expect it to play.

My presentation traces their engagement with choice images and principles of rhetorical humanism in three stages. First, I observe the non-conformists’ interaction with humanist philosophical slogans (e.g., Augustine’s call to “take the gold out of Egypt”). Second, I contextualize their use of humanist psychologies of attention. Finally, I examine their appropriation of the arts of memory.

At-A-Glance Bios- Presenter #1

Curry Kennedy is a PhD student in English at the Pennsylvania State University. His dissertation traces the interanimation of rhetoric and religion in England from the foundation of John Colet’s grammar school at St. Paul’s in 1512 to the end of the English civil war in 1660.

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Remnants of Rhetorical Humanism in the Non-Conformist “Arts of Listening” of Early Modern England

As with other hardline distinctions once made about the English reformation, the old dichotomy--found in otherwise impressive work by Miller, Shuger, and Davies--between anti-rhetorical puritan and ornate conformist preachers stands in need of revision. Mary Morrissey has explained that framing the difference between these two factions in terms of rhetorical style overlooks the fact that most early moderns would have conceived of preaching as something separate from rhetoric, not a species of oratory at all. Reframing the issue in terms of theological homiletics is, I think, a welcome shift in perspective.

In my presentation, however, I suggest that this reframing risks missing the innovative uses to which non-conformist clergy put the images and principles of rhetorical humanism in what Hunt has called their “arts of listening,” sermons and dialogues written to prepare parishioners to hear the Word proclaimed. Non-conformists such as Robert Wilkinson, William Harrison, Stephen Egerton, and John Brinsley applied commonplaces of rhetorical humanism to the activity, not of the preacher, but of the properly receptive audience. Thus, rhetorical thought did play a role in non-conformist theories of preaching, just not the role one would reflexively expect it to play.

My presentation traces their engagement with choice images and principles of rhetorical humanism in three stages. First, I observe the non-conformists’ interaction with humanist philosophical slogans (e.g., Augustine’s call to “take the gold out of Egypt”). Second, I contextualize their use of humanist psychologies of attention. Finally, I examine their appropriation of the arts of memory.