Calvinist Rhetoric in Nineteenth Century America

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An examination of early nineteenth-century journals, sermons, and course syllabi written by prominent members of the Calvinist clergy, especially the Bartlet Chairs of Sacred Rhetoric at Andover Seminary, shows how an emerging oratorical culture in the United States impacted the choices made by Calvinist clergy. This study considers how the theory and practice of rhetoric changed in the face of democratizing forces that contributed to a distinctly oratorical culture in the early republic. This study should appeal to scholars interested in the history of rhetoric and American religion.


“Just as Ronald F. Reid’s thorough study of the history of the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University (1806-1904) reveals the various trends of rhetoric, so also does Brian Fehler’s study of nineteenth-century Calvinist rhetoric provide a diachronic mapping of the changing views of rhetoric in America. Readers of this fine work will share both my enthusiasm for this project and admiration for the insight Dr. Fehler provides to the study of religion and rhetoric in America.” - Professor Richard Leo Enos, Lillian B. Radford Chair of Rhetoric and Composition, Texas Christian University.

“This study connects an analysis of nineteenth-century rhetoric to the forms of rhetorical education taking place among Calvinist clergy in graduate theological education, particularly Andover Theological Seminary. Dr. Fehler demonstrates how Calvinists were adept at using rhetoric to meet cultural challenges. Yet, he also reveals how they could adapt rhetorical patterns to meet changing circumstances. Along the way, these Calvinists developed a significant rhetorical tradition and contributed tot he creation of modern homiletics.” - Dr. Mark G.Toulouse, Professor of American Religious History, Brite Divinity School

". . . will be of interest to scholars in several disciplines, including American history, the history of education, and religious studies. However, its primary audience will be historians of rhetoric, particularly those interested in the complicated relationship between rhetoric and religion. Fehler’s insightful examination of the Calvinists’ participation in oratorical culture and their responses to the gradual fragmentation of that culture in the latter decades of the nineteenth century offers a valuable contribution to our field.” – Prof. Louis Agnew, Syracuse University

Table of Contents

Preface by Richard Leo Enos
1 “God Is a God of Order”: Federalist Era Revival Culture
2 Calvinist Rhetoric at Andover
3 Classicism and the Church: Calvinist Recovery of Ancient Rhetoric
4 Calvinist Elocution in an Age of Popular Oratory
5 Revival History as Rhetorical History
6 “Eloquence Is Always a Means and Not an End”: The Calvinists and Rhetoric in Nineteenth-Century America

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