Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

A New History of the Sermon: The Nineteenth Century

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

A New History of the Sermon: The Nineteenth Century

Article excerpt

A New History of the Sermon: The Nineteenth Century. Edited by Robert H. Ellison. (Leiden: Brill, 2010, Pp. xiv, 574. $247.00.)

A New History of the Sermon: TL· Nineteenth Century, is the fifth volume of the "New History of the Sermon" series published by Brill. In the introduction, editor Robert H. Ellison bemoans the fact that most histories of the sermon have focused on the preacher, thus neglecting the form of the sermon itself. Building on his earlier work, Ellison moves "from biography to rhetorical analysis" of sermons themselves (1). Ellison's interest in rhetorical criticism of sermons has antecedents in Victor J. Lams' studies of the sermons of John Henry Newman, J. N. Ian Dickson's study of sermon rhetoric, and O. C. Edwards' A History of Preaching (Nashville, 2004), which Ellison regards as the "magnum opus in recent sermon scholarship" (4) . Ellison hopes his volume will build off the work of Dickson and Edwards by moving away from religious biography and toward an "examination of the theories, theological issues, and cultural developments that defined the nineteenth-century Anglo-American pulpit" (4).

A New History of the Sermon is divided into three parts: theory and theology, sermon and society in the British Empire, and sermon and society in America. These three parts include a total of sixteen essays, some of which adhere more closely to Ellison's vision than others. If Ellison's goal is to stay as closely to rhetorical analysis as possible, then the first three essays on theory and theology do so the most successfully. The first essay, by Ellison himself, focuses not on the historical or theological content of sermons, but rather on "how and why" Tractarians expressed their views in sermons (16). After examining several different sermon genres, Ellison concludes by calling for a "hybrid scholarship" of Tractarian sermons that brings the work of historians together with the insights of literary scholars and rhetoricians (56-57). Not surprisingly, of the sixteen, Ellison's essay is the most clearly focused examination of sermon rhetoric itself.

As a rule, the essays included in parts two and three include discussions of sermon rhetoric, but rhetoric is not always the primary subject. For example, Keith A. Francis' "Nineteenth-Century British Sermons on Evolution and The Origin of Species: The Dog that Didn't Bark?" demonstrates the importance of sermons as source material by using them to corroborate Owen Chadwick's argument that for most parishioners the supposed "war" between Victorian religion and science was a non-event (307-08). …

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