All Possible Art: George Herbert's 'The Country Parson'

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1st Edition

240 x 160 mm. 168pp ... [In stock in Australia, for immediate delivery]

This is a new study of George Herbert's The Country Parson. While most of the scholarship on The Country Parson has been historical or sociological in method or focus, this work looks at it as a literary work and in its literary context - that is as an anomaly within the clerical manual genre and as Herbert's contribution to the burgeoning genre of courtesy literature in his time. This study offers a new appreciation of the intentional art Herbert employed in The Country Parson, the only work he prepared for publication.

The Country Parson is examined against the background of contemporary clerical manuals. No previous study exists that compares it with other clerical manuals of Herbert's day. Unlike his contemporaries, Herbert stresses the importance of appearance while minimising the role of the parson's inner life; he exalts the efficacy of experience rather than that of doctrine, and 'good works' usurp the central role usually assigned to faith in Protestant thinking. In areas of doctrine, exegesis, homiletics, and church appearances, Herbert recommends strategies that cross party lines; he offers a via media for the largely Puritan-dominated genre. He brings elements from the Puritan and Anglo-Catholic traditions together in his pastoral manual.

Rejecting the standard homiletic style of other manualists, Herbert wrote The Country Parson in the form of the courtesy book or book of manners. In purpose, temper, diction, subject matter, and classical influence this work shows undeniable affinities to popular Renaissance courtesy books.

A particular courtesy book may have served as a model for Herbert's: the well-known Italian work of Stefano Guazzo, The Civile Conversation. Pious, scriptural, and proverb-laden, it would have strongly appealed to Herbert's tastes. Responding to what Herbert saw as a need among clergy for guidance on behaviour and manners, Herbert writes his manual after the form of a genre specifically dedicated to outer appearance: the courtesy book.

The Country Parson is examined in the light of the important courtesy theme of Seeming and Being. While the traditional courtesy authors are shown to prefer 'seeming' to 'being', both Herbert and Guazzo show that 'seeming' has a profound mimetic effect on 'being' and urge their readers to improve outward 'seeming' for the sake of spiritual 'being'.

The Country Parson should be seen as a carefully crafted piece of literary prose working within, but also transforming, the popular genres of clerical manual and courtesy book, using 'all possible art' to please and instruct both pastor and church member and ultimately (as Herbert hoped) to serve God. Literary historians, Herbert students, and cultural historians will all find this study worth their examination.

Kristine Wolberg is an independent scholar.
^ Literary Criticism ^


SKU 9780838641705
Barcode # 9780838641705
Brand AUP
Artist / Author Kristine WOLBERG

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