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John Knox: reformation rhetoric and the traditions of Scots prose

Farrow, Kenneth D. (1989) John Knox: reformation rhetoric and the traditions of Scots prose. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

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. Most British literary critics who have examined his work have done so superficially and have concluded that his prose was plain or unadorned and that its most important feature was a drift towards anglicisation. In the introductory section, `The Myths, the Writer and the Canon', it is argued that, on the contrary, the latter assessment cannot be made definitively for textual reasons and is, in any case, irrelevant to literary criticism. Moreover, the study suggests that Knox was one of the most highly rhetorical of all the sixteenth-century prose writers, although his rhetoric was never decorative. Chapter one traces the beginnings of Scottish literary prose from 1490 onwards, examining such texts as John Ireland's The Meroure of Wyssdome, John Gau's The Richt Vay to the Kingdom of Hevin, The Complaynt of Scotland and so forth, and establishes that works before Knox reflect religious belief even at the levels of lexis and syntactic structure, but generally speaking, do not consistently and convincingly reveal the personalities of their authors (with the possible exception of the Complayner). Chapter two illustrates that Knox's prose is always double-edged; its rhetorical aims are both offensive and defensive, it is often psychologically self-expressive and simultaneously revealing of his fundamental religious beliefs. The remaining chapters attempt to identify the range of rhetorical devices through which Knox manifests his own character and his religion, to assess how they may have affected his audience, to establish his sources, and whenever possible, to set them within pre-existing literary traditions, Scottish or otherwise. Chapters one and five are concentrated especially on the historiographical milieu in mid-sixteenth century Scotland and beyond, in order to set The Historie of the Reformatioun, the first great work of Scots prose, in its proper context. Chapter five itself consists of a number of generic divisions which are isolated to facilitate detailed analysis of disparate literary strands in Knox's magnum opus. Thus, according to the author, as far as prose is concerned, Knox's rhetoric and literary works represent the culmination of homiletic and historiographical traditions, the maturation of incipient religious forces in the sixteenth century, and the earliest establishment in Scotland of a fully-rounded literary personality.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
Supervisor's Name: Lyall., Prof. R.J.
Date of Award: 1989
Depositing User: Geraldine Coyle
Unique ID: glathesis:1989-883
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:27
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/883

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