Awakening Words: John Bunyan and the Language of Community

Awakening Words: John Bunyan and the Language of Community

Awakening Words: John Bunyan and the Language of Community

Awakening Words: John Bunyan and the Language of Community

Synopsis

"As seventeenth-century nonconformist writer and preacher, John Bunyan discovered that the power of awakening words - words that both define and unite his ministerial and literary vocations - effected not only the conversion of individuals but also the gathering and consolidating of communities. Placed under the stress of the sectarian division that characterized the religious radicalism of the seventeenth century, and most markedly the suppression and persecution of nonconformity under the Restoration regime after 1660, Bunyan's language of community modulates through successive literary and political contexts as he seeks to mediate between his audience and the troubling polarities of the fictional words he creates and the actual world he confronts. Writing from the model and authority of scripture, Bunyan offers his readers fictional narratives and theological treatises that variously challenge, resist, invert, and imaginatively transform, the conditions under which they are written." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Richard L. Greaves

No period in the history of bunyan scholarship has been more productive than the last four decades of the twentieth century. Inspired by the towering figure of Roger Sharrock, this period can be fairly characterized as the maturation of modern scholarly interest in Bunyan, though, to be sure, this interest owes much to the pioneering studies of James Blanton Wharey and William York Tindall. the mythic Victorian portrayal of Bunyan as a prototype of Charles Haddon Spurgeon has been laid to rest, at least among academics, and the once standard biography by John Brown has been replaced by Michael A. Mullett’s John Bunyan in Context (1996). in A Turbulent, Seditious and Factious People: John Bunyan and His Church (1988) Christopher Hill has firmly grounded Bunyan in the world of English conventicles without losing sight of his literary genius. Another classic, George Offor’s edition of Bunyan’s works, has been replaced by the critical Oxford edition, of which Sharrock was the general editor; though meritorious as a bibliographical landmark, the Offor edition should no longer be used by scholars. the best of the recent, burgeoning Bunyan scholarship is characterized by the almost seamless blending of literary, religious, and historical scholarship, two of the preeminent practitioners of which are Neil Keeble and John Knott. the debate over postmodernism has suggested new ways to interpret Bunyan, though we should be wary of imposing an artificial intellectual construct on an author who consciously wrote for a biblically literate but otherwise relatively unsophisticated audience; most of his intended readers, as Keeble notes, were chiefly vulgar. Bunyan, in fact, wrote for various audiences, ranging from the unconverted, whom, above all others, he was most interested in reaching, to the godly, whom he offered scriptural instruction to fortify their faith and pastoral guidance to overcome the experiences of Doubting Castle, Hill Difficulty, Van-

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