The Look and the Like: Lancelot Andrewes's Real Words

Thursday 15 June 2017, 5.00PM

Speaker: Kathryn Murphy (Oxford)

Critics writing on the preacher Lancelot Andrewes -- who, as Addison claimed 100 years after his death, punned sinners into repentance -- often refer to the materiality of his words, suggesting that he squeezed, touched, tossed, played with, or crumbled them, or erected them for his auditory to see. This paper sets Andrewes's sermons against the language of Thomas Nashe, John Florio, and John Donne amid the copiousness of early modern verbal coining in English, the relationship of English with Latin, and the problems of the inkpot, and asks what we mean when we say Andrewes's words are 'real'. Attending to his repeated calls to his auditory to look reveals a deployment of vivid circumstance as intricate as that of contemporary playwrights. In calling us to look at invisible things, we see how Andrewes's detailed attention to grammar, in which he was schooled alongside Edmund Spenser by Richard Mulcaster, is not the dry preoccupation of one of the greatest linguists of his age, but a vital aspect of his theology and sense of human nature.

Kathryn Murphy is Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oriel College, Oxford, and Associate Professor in the Faculty of English. She is the author of several articles on early modern prose and philosophical style, in Montaigne, Bacon, Burton, and Browne; and on grammar, poetics, and theology in Greville, Traherne, and Geoffrey Hill. She is currently writing a book entitled The Tottering Universal: Metaphysical Prose in the Seventeenth Century, and editing The Penguin Book of Renaissance Prose.

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