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Toward a Womanist Homiletic

Katie Cannon, Alice Walker and Emancipatory Proclamation


Donna E. Allen

The sermon is a major theological voice in the Black church; it carries enormous influence and is traditionally and predominantly a Christian-based theoethical construct. Through the sermon, the preacher negotiates the contours of African American sacred and secular culture. The congregation is invited to examine social morals and values according to the faith claims of the sermon.
Toward a Womanist Homiletic builds on the work of Katie G. Cannon and Alice Walker to offer a womanist paradigm for analyzing the sermons of Black women and proposes the content of a womanist homiletic. This womanist homiletic is a foundational construct that includes an examination of theological language, the insights on the ‘trans-rational’ nature of preaching and the function of embodiment and performed identity in preaching. It also includes insights from a womanist critique of language in Black preaching, particularly the prevalence of derogatory language about women in the sacred rhetoric of Black preaching.


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Chapter I. Moving Toward a Womanist Homiletic 7


Katie Cannon’s womanist critique of Black preaching is foundational for developing the discursive aspects (or what Aristotle calls the rhe- torical logos) of a womanist homiletic. Logos is concerned with the words, the content, and the line of reasoning in proclamation. Beyond logos, however, exists pathos (the emotional identifications wrought in preaching) and ethos (the embodied communication that devolves from the very person and presence of the preacher). For this rea- son, it is important in Chapter II to return to Alice Walker’s defini- tion of womanist to consider additional categories for exploring the trans-rational nature of preaching. This project does not apply an Aristotelian analysis; rather, the categories themselves offer a con- structive rhetorical stance that underscores the need to move beyond the good start toward a womanist homiletic begun in Cannon’s work. Before considering the rhetorical stance of logos in Cannon’s woman- ist examination of Black preaching and Walker’s definition of wom- anist, it is helpful to state how rhetorical criticism is significant in furthering Cannon’s womanist agenda in a critique of Black sacred rhetoric as we move toward a womanist homiletic. Chapter I Moving Toward a Womanist Homiletic Allen_Book.indb 7 03/12/12 3:23 PM 8 toward a womanist homiletic Rhetorical Criticism and a Womanist Homiletic Rhetoric refers to the “actions humans perform when they use sym- bols for the purpose of communicating with one another.”1 The scope of rhetoric is extensive and pervasive throughout most cultures and societies. Rhetoric includes intuitive or nonverbal symbols as...

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