"The Sweetness of the Lips Increaseth Learning": Rhetoric & Religion in the Scottish Formation of English Stuidies
Two of the most important English-language texts of the eighteenth century were George Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric (1776) and Hugh Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (1783). Campbell was principal of Marischal College and a founding member of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society; he was also an ordained Presbyterian minister and taught future ministers, wrote an important defense of Christianity, and considered his translation of the Gospels to be his most important work. Blair was the first Regius Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres at the University of Edinburgh; he also taught future ministers, was pastor of the prestigious St. Giles High Church in Edinburgh, and first established his literary reputation with publication of his sermons. Much scholarship on their rhetorical theories has focused on the influence of contemporary philosophical ideas, political circumstances, and the "Scottish Enlightenment." The influence of religion, however, has attracted surprisingly little attention.This dissertation contributes to the understanding and assessment of Scottish Enlightenment rhetorical theory by demonstrating important connections and interactions between eighteenth-century Scottish Christianity and the "enlightened" rhetorical theories of Campbell and Blair. First, it shows that religion is philosophically relevant to Campbell's rhetorical theory. Campbell re-defined rhetoric to include all kinds of communication and emphasized the psychological; as this examination argues, he also made pulpit oratory the paradigmatic instance of rhetoric, and incorporated certain Humean ideas not despite his religion, but because his Calvinist view of preaching and faith is in certain key respects amenable to Hume's theory of knowledge. Second, it shows that the Philosophy provides a philosophical foundation for the Moderate Presbyterian views that theology is an evolving field of knowledge, and that the primary purpose of religion is to encourage morality. And third, this dissertation shows how religion shapes the moral and social purposes of Blair's Lectures. The Lectures were meant to cultivate and refine aesthetic taste and served as a guide to British cultural and linguistic norms, but they must also be read in light of Blair's underlying assumption that his readers ought to above all seek to love and serve God and neighbor.
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