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George WhitefieldLife, Context, and Legacy$
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Geordan Hammond and David Ceri Jones

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198747079

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198747079.001.0001

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Whitefield and Literary Affect

Whitefield and Literary Affect

(p.190) 11 Whitefield and Literary Affect
George Whitefield

Emma Salgård Cunha

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides a reading of Whitefield’s reliance on affective rhetorical strategies for preaching. It aligns his views on the religious necessity of emotion alongside contemporary notions of the affective impact of poetry and oratory, and argues that the literary-critical developments of the period are closely connected to the defence of the emotions within evangelical poetics. Rather than characterize Whitefield’s oratory as emotionally overwhelming and melodramatic, however, this chapter turns to his printed sermons for evidence of a much more nuanced and sceptical assessment of the religious affections. A detailed close reading of the sermon ‘Abraham’s Offering up his Son Isaac’ shows how Whitefield’s insistence on the partial and human nature of the affections is central to his belief that the object of his preaching must lie in the conviction of his auditory, and that emotional transformation is only a prelude to final conversion.

Keywords:   Affections, sensibility, eighteenth-century poetics, John Dennis, preaching, sermons, religious conversion

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