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Victorian Sermonic Discourse: The Sermon in Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Society


This dissertation analyzes the role of the sermon in nineteenth-century British literature and society. In particular, it examines the way sermonic discourse—discourse that includes sermons themselves as well as discourse directly inspired by, responding to, or imitative of sermons—permeated Victorian literature and discussions of key issues in the Victorian era. Contributing to the growing field of sermon studies, the dissertation focuses first on Victorian homiletics and the novel, then shifts to two major Victorian concerns: the growing realm of science, and the growth of the industrial city. Drawing on the published sermons of many of the “greats” of the Victorian pulpit, homiletical manuals, periodical press accounts of and reactions and responses to sermons, novels, lectures, and letters, I seek to show that the sermon’s scope and reach extended well beyond the pulpit and make it an essential component of Victorian studies both in its own right and for the influence it exercised throughout the period.

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