Augustine himself had discussed the use of traditional rhetorical styles for sermons in his De Doctrina Christiana (IV, 12 ff).1 The problem that sermons present for the student of style is that they are non-literary texts and so do not share the same vocabulary as the literary tradition. Yet they provide another example of the influence of the three styles within their own range of vocabulary and syntax. Language in the sermon is adapted to the oral context of the work; the syntax has a tendency to be linear, without extensive subordination, and the vocabulary is usually close to speech, even in passages of high style emphasis. There are also more specialised areas of diction which are however almost always glossed by the speaker so that there can be little room for error in understanding. Lancelot Andrewes (1555–1626) represents the early Elizabethan usage in sermon writing; he analyses the biblical text of a sermon into a series of topics, derived from the various meanings of separate words in the quotation. His sermons are an extended analysis of each topic, in logical order. Often there is an impression that the quotation has been lost in the gloss that he develops from it. He rarely uses the high style, and is content to vary his language between concise variants of middle and plain style usage. There is an evenness of tone about his work which is in marked contrast to the more turbulent and theatrical manner of Donne’s sermons.
KeywordsNoun Phrase Moral Truth Biblical Text Verbal Noun Comparative Clause
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