Rhetoric, Literature and Religion in Early Modern France - Essays in Honour of Peter Bayley
Edited By Nicholas Hammond and Michael Moriarty
Part I Eloquence of the Pulpit
John D. Lyons Bossuet and the Tragic Peter Bayley’s pioneering study, French Pulpit Oratory, brought renewed attention to one of the most popular and inf luential forms of literary crea- tion of the seventeenth century. Bayley asks, among other pertinent and rewarding questions, about the ‘imaginative and conceptual universe’ and the ‘dominant obsessions’ of these texts which were delivered viva voce to large congregations but also were printed, reprinted, and read in the fol- lowing centuries. Peter Bayley’s study directs our attention towards the passions of a public that appreciated ecclesiastical orators as Michel Le Faucheur, Jean Bertaut, and Jean Macé and later Fléchier, Massillon, and Bossuet. In their day, these and other preachers provided aesthetic experiences, as well as spiritual and social ones, to the great and the less great of Paris.1 It is an interesting coincidence that the most celebrated of these preachers, Jacques- Bénigne Bossuet, campaigned vehemently against another literary genre that of fered rival occasions for social and aesthetic encounters: tragedy. Like theatrical tragedy, ecclesiastical sermons gathered crowds at appointed times to witness the latest performance of renowned artists, as they gave voice to powerful texts that dealt with themes of considerable weight, such as the death of heroes, the power of kings, the snares of illusion and vanity, and the dangers of human presumption. For Bossuet the comparison of his sacred orations with the specious and corrupting spectacles of mere comédiens would surely not have been 1 Madame de Sévigné’s...
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