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English Preaching in the Late Middle Ages$
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H. Leith Spencer

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198112037

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198112037.001.0001

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Ancient Customs and New Manners: Medieval Views of Preaching

Ancient Customs and New Manners: Medieval Views of Preaching

(p.78) 3 Ancient Customs and New Manners: Medieval Views of Preaching
English Preaching in the Late Middle Ages

H. Leith Spencer

Oxford University Press

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

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