The rhetoric of religious polemic : a literary study of the church order debate in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I
This thesis sets in their literary context polemical books and tracts arising from tho, debate on church order within the Church as established by law in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The first two chapters set out the terms of the discussion and describe the historical context of the works considered. Chapter one looks at models of discourse appropriate for a study of polemic, concluding that the perspective of traditional rhetoric enables one to pose the right stylistic and ethical questions of works whose goal was effective persuasion. Chapter Two looks at the conditions under which these works were produced, analysing the extent and effectiveness of censorship. The principal argument begins in Chapter Three, with an analysis of the main linguistic model for this literature - the formal disputation as practised in the universities demonstrating its inability to cope with the fundamental nature of the disagreements between opponents and its tendency under pressure to become a trial in print. Chapter Four complements this analysis with a chronological survey of events from the Admonition controversy of 1572-3 bo the mid-1580s. John Whitgift's appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury and his subsequent campaign against non-subscribers are identified as pivotal events which focused attention on the political and legal mechanisms for the enforcement of order in the church, and the literary responses of reformers to this shift of focus from the theological to the historic are analysed. The first part of Chapter Five looks in more technical detail at the increasingly arbitrary use of literary language by reformers, examining the crucial influence of the dialectician Ramus on the tendency to treat as formal proof a rhetorically effective arrangement of propositions; the latter part of the chapter looks at the witty reductio ad absurdum of this tendency in the Marprelate tracts. Chapter Six considers the last ten to fifteen years of Elizabeth's reign, concentrating in particular on the polanic arising from or influenced by the Star Chamber cases against reformers in 1590-1.The Conclusion summarises briefly the linguistic shortcuts used by the majority of polemicists to strengthen their case, and contrasts these with Hooker's arphasls on the need to respect the processes of language in the journey of theological discovery. Finally, I examine the implications of the obviovis-bankruptcy of traditional forms of exchange in a new situation, and the-consequent decline of dialogue, for the English Church after 1603.