'Speaking now to our eyes': visual elements of the printed sermon in early modern England

Yip, Hannah Sze-Munn ORCID: 0000-0001-5843-044X (2021). 'Speaking now to our eyes': visual elements of the printed sermon in early modern England. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis investigates the enduring cultural impact of the printed sermon, the primary genre of religious literature in early modern England. Newly appreciated from a historical perspective as a distinctive genre of oral text which played a major part within the cultural and political life of post-Reformation England, the sermon has witnessed a surge of critical interest over the past twenty years. The early modern sermon has been recognised not only as the most important form of spiritual instruction for Protestants, but also as a crucial instrument of the state, advancing royal and governmental policies and news as a means of official propaganda.

In response to the extensive work currently being undertaken, in which the sermon is almost exclusively considered as literary text and historical event, this thesis argues in favour of additional interdisciplinary routes for its study; namely, bibliographical considerations of preachers’ active and prolific engagement with early modern printed media, and art-historical scrutiny of the visual presentation of printed sermons. The vernacular sermon’s considerable contribution to the early printed book trade has long been acknowledged by scholars of both late medieval and early modern book history: Festial, John Mirk’s collection of sermons, was the most frequently printed text before the English Reformation, and an estimated 3,000 sermons were published in England in the years 1558–1640. Yet, the printed sermon’s standing as a popular visual and devotional text remains under-researched amidst thriving studies of its oral delivery.

Thus, this thesis provides the first detailed account of the nature, meaning and function of printed images and visual elements within the post-Reformation sermon. Sustained attention to pictures within a literary genre widely understood to have played a key role in Protestantism’s integration in English religio-political culture furnishes substantial support for scholarship that repudiates older arguments for Protestant ‘iconophobia’. By examining readers’ and collectors’ relationships with these carefully designed publications throughout, this thesis questions the settled paradigms surrounding illustrated ‘ephemeral’ texts in the period more broadly, demonstrating that their value did not depreciate in the years following their production. These illustrations are grouped thematically, with the central argument that they constituted a major and hitherto overlooked form of English Protestant art.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Adlington, HughUNSPECIFIEDorcid.org/0000-0002-0901-9395
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
N Fine Arts > NE Print media
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/11234


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