Comic Preachers and Parodic Sermons - Session CS006 at 13th International Congress for Eighteenth Century Studies

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Artem Serebrennikov / Moscow State University
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The comic preacher, either hilariously out of touch with the world and buried in his Classic or Biblical erudition or worldly-wise enough to turn his sermon into a form of popular entertainment, is a staple of the eighteenth-century novel. A frequent character type in the English novel (Abraham Adams in "Joseph Andrews", Charles Primrose in "The Vicar of Wakefield", Yorick in "Tristram Shandy"), he is also well-represented in Spanish (José Francisco de Isla, "Fray Gerundio de Campazas") and German (Friedrich Nicolai, "Sebaldus Nothanker") literature. This stock character has roots in historical developments of the period, namely, the corruption of pulpit eloquence and rhetoric in general, and rationalist criticism of the Church and its social role.

This session of the 13th International Congress for Eighteenth Century Studies, which will be held from the 25th to the 29th of July 2011 at the University of Graz (Austria), is dedicated to portrayals of comic preachers and parodic sermons in fiction, as well as real-life extravagant preachers and presence of humorous and/or satirical sermons in eighteenth-century culture. Its topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

* The decay of church oratory in the eighteenth century and attempts to criticize and reverse it (e.g., Fénelon's "Dialogues sur l'éloquence", Padre Isla's satires).
* Sacred vs. profane: sermon as a festivity or a form of entertainment, preachers manipulating their audiences' emotions, intentional blasphemy and sacrilege in sermons.
* Interdenominational strife and grotesque portrayals of preachers from a rival church (the Aeolists in Swift's "A Tale of a Tub", a lunatic Methodist preacher in Richard Graves' "Spiritual Quixote", etc.).
* Sermon and "inappropriate speech", as defined by Mikhail Bakhtin: preaching to a hostile, indifferent or ignorant audience, literal or almost literal preaching to the choir, sermons with spectacularly bad timing (e.g., during a fire, on a sinking ship or during some other threatening situation).
* Preacher as a Don Quixote; church rhetoric, idealism and reality.

Please submit paper proposals by filling in the registration form found on and sending it by January 31st 2011 to .