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Title: 'Unspoken sermons' : Christian preaching in British fiction, 1979-2004
Author: Dickinson, David
ISNI:       0000 0001 3423 9675
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2007
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Declining church attendance in pluralist Britain indicates that the Christian sermon, once a vibrant literary genre, has become an increasingly unfamiliar form to most readers and writers of fiction. Yet, as this thesis will argue, fictional sermons are still successfully used by novelists. The thesis examines sermons in three genres, and representing three Christian traditions, the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Free Church. The genres discussed are chronicles, as represented by Antonia Byatt and David Lodge, historical novels written by Geraldine Brooks and Jane Rogers and fiction by John Murray and Michael Arditti sited in specific religious, spiritual or ecclesiastical environments. The thesis develops an analytical toolkit, based mainly on rhetorical narratology and cognitive poetics, to examine the current status of fictional sermons. Five case studies follow. The first discusses issues of authority and inspiration in texts, preachers and preaching. The second considers how novelists communicate religious experience, particularly experiences of epiphany and conversion. The third describes contemporary novels' portraits of the troubled preacher. The fourth analyses the language used by novelists in their sermons and the fifth studies how sermons construct discourse communities and religious community. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the significance of memory, imagination and embodiment as agents by which readers - and hearers of actual sermons - are enabled to respond to suasory speech and engage with its proposed alternative world. The thesis is intended as a contribution to the study of religion and literature, to discourse analysis, to homiletical theory and practice and to criticism of contemporary literature.
Supervisor: Jay, Elisabeth Sponsor: Methodist Church
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral