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John Knox

Reformation Rhetoric and the Traditions of Scots Prose 1490-1570

Kenneth D. Farrow

John Knox has seldom been taken seriously as a literary figure; in fact it is often assumed that he was hostile to ‘art’ of any kind. This study analyses John Knox’s style of writing and suggests that Knox was one of the most highly rhetorical of all the sixteenth-century prose writers, although his prose was never decorative.
Early chapters set Knox in his proper context by focusing on Scottish prose from John Ireland’s Meroure of Wyssdome, through to The Complaynt of Scotland, before examining Knox’s admonitory public epistles, his personal correspondence, and his more exclusively theological tracts. The final two chapters are devoted to his magnum opus, The Historie of the Reformatioun of Religioun in Scotland, the first truly great work of Scots prose, and show that Knox’s talents represent the culmination of homiletic and historiographical traditions, the maturation of incipient religious forces in the sixteenth century and, as far as prose is concerned, the earliest establishment in Scotland of a fully rounded literary personality.
Contents: The Myths, the Writer and the Canon – Scottish Vernacular Prose before Knox, from the Meroure of Wyssdome to Archbishop Hamilton’s Catechism – Knox’s Admonitory Public Epistles – Knox’s Personal Correspondence – Knox’s Theological Works – Knox’s The Historie of the Reformatioun, Models and Methods – Narrative and Descriptive Art in The Historie.