Ancient Customs and New Manners: Medieval Views of Preaching

H. Leith Spencer

in English Preaching in the Late Middle Ages

Published in print December 1993 | ISBN: 9780198112037
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670664 | DOI:
Ancient Customs and New Manners: Medieval Views of Preaching

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This chapter focuses on the expectations and reactions of medieval audiences to preaching. Because sermons are a functional kind of writing designed to influence the audience's behaviour as well as to instruct them, the appreciation of a ‘good’ sermon or a ‘bad’ sermon from any age is determined as much by social, ideological, local, personal, and even idiosyncratic considerations. Audiences apparently sought some or all of the following properties in sermons: brevity; impressive, not ridiculous, delivery; diversion; novelty; entertainment; instruction; adherence to scripture; emotive power; and conformity to the listeners' beliefs. For preference, the preacher should be educated, personable, have a pleasing voice, and exhibit unimpeachable moral probity; he must never appear to condescend to his hearers; and remembering that, though he was Christ's representative, he was also his instrument, he should not glory in his own conceit.

Keywords: preaching; sermons; good sermon; bad sermon; audience; preacher

Chapter.  23724 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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