Early Modern English Sermons: Performances and Afterlives

Workshop, 2nd November, 2018 

University of Sheffield

*Deadline for abstracts has now passed but registration for attendance will be open in early September 2018

We are asking for expressions of interest for a one-day workshop on early modern English preaching (c.1500-c.1700). This workshop seeks to recentre sermons in literary culture and everyday religious experience, as well as gathering together scholars from different backgrounds and stages of their careers, including postgrads and ECRs. Though we welcome abstracts for traditional papers, this workshop intends to foster dialogue between researchers through round table discussions, plenary papers and masterclasses on performance and publication.  We welcome participants either working on sermons or who wish to incorporate them into their research, whether that be from a literary, historical, theological or philosophical background.

Sermons shaped early modern political, social and religious discourses and practices. In addition to church-goers hearing preaching from the pulpit on a weekly basis, sermons also appeared widely in print and manuscript, as individuals incorporated these communal performances into their private or domestic practice. This workshop aims to conceptualise more fully the ‘career’ of a sermon from its composition to its performance to its published or circulated ‘afterlife’. In this way, we hope to draw out connections between preaching and other forms of devotional practice, alongside thinking about the place of the sermon within early modern literary consumption and among other literary forms (such as drama, poetry and debates).

What to expect:

Confirmed speakers include Dr Emma Rhatigan (OUP Donne Sermons Project), Dr Arnold Hunt (The Art of Hearing: English Preachers and their Audiences, 1590-1640) and Professor Peter McCullough (Sermons at Court). We have two different formats for participation described below:

If you’re interested in participating in the workshop as a discussant, please submit a 300 word summary of how your work intersects with sermon culture, and/or a provocation relating to the field. There will be an opportunity during the workshop for all participants to introduce their field of interest and participate in a round-table discussion.

Alternatively, if you would be interested in presenting your work in a traditional paper format, please submit a 200-300 word abstract and a brief biographical note.

Topics could include (but are not limited to):

  • Literature (plays, poetry, oratory, etc.) and preaching – both how sermons may have shaped, and been shaped by literary culture
  • Rhetoric
  • The Bible and exegesis
  • Pedagogy
  • The places of preaching and the church
  • Reading aloud
  • Listening
  • Performance
  • Sermon composition
  • Manuscript culture
  • Print and publication history
  • Politics and censorship in the pulpit
  • Sermon gadding
  • Sound and music in the church
  • Sermons and social control

We hope to provide travel bursaries for PhD students/ECRs to make the day as accessible as possible, so please indicate in your email if you would to be considered for a bursary. Please submit all proposals to by Monday 21st May.

Mathilde Zeeman & Catherine Evans