Friday, April 12, 2013

John N Wall Awarded Fellowship for the National Humanities Center

John N Wall, the Principal Investigator for the Virtual Paul's Cross Project, has been awarded a Fellowship for a year of research and writing at the National Humanities Center, in Research Triangle Park, NC.

Wall's project at the Center will be to complete a book entitled Hearing Donne: The Experience of Preaching in Early Modern London, a project that is a direct outgrowth of his work with the Virtual Paul's Cross Project.

Wall will focus in this book on John Donne's engagement with time in his preaching. Wall will argue that Donne viewed preaching sacramentally, not simply as lectures that communicate ideas but as performances that enact their meaning. 

For Donne, Wall believes, time provides the context for structuring his interactions with his congregation as well as the content of his discourse.  Thus, Donne's sermons are about performing the meaning of time; they enact, as they unfold in time, Donne’s understanding of how God’s saving acts in human history connect humanity in its fallen temporal state to our future with God in eternity.  

In Wall's view, Donne's theology of preaching ties outcome to performance, makes meaning contingent on voice and on the timing and pacing of delivery, but also on Donne's choreographing of interactions with his audience, pacing his delivery and cueing their response within the one or two hours allotted him by the social conventions of congregational expectation.

This will be Wall's  second year as a Fellow of the National Humanities Center. 

During his first year as a Fellow, in 1980-1981, he wrote his first scholarly monograph, Transformations of the Word: Spenser, Herbert, Vaughan (1988), a work that traced the implications of worship as choreographed by the Book of Common Prayer for religious poetry in the early modern period.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wall Delivers Paper on Virtual Paul's Cross Project at Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America

John N Wall delivered a paper entitled "Interpreting the Manuscript: MS Royal 17.B.XX. and the Virtual Paul's Cross Project" at the annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, held in San Diego this past weekend.

Wall's paper explored ways in which traces of earlier stages of Donne's sermon construction may well survive into the manuscript, especially of Donne's Gunpowder Day sermon for November 5th, 1622.

Wall pointed out that all the texts of Donne's sermons are ex post facto memorial reconstructions of what Donne actually said during the course of his sermon.  The sermon itself, not read from a script but improvised on the spot using notes, is in its particulars lost to us, but may be glimpsed from traces in the texts that do survive.

Wall argued, for example, that the sentence fragment "use his means and stay his leysure," that comes about a half hour into the sermon, is actually a survival of one of the notes that Donne had before him while preaching.

The text that surrounds this sentence fragment suggests what Donne made of this note to himself while preaching. So the text of the sermon we have at this point gives us a clue as to what Donne's notes were like as well as how he expanded his notes into the actual text of the sermon as he delivered it.

Here is the text without the fragment. The 3 X marks show where the fragment occurs in the manuscript of this sermon.

You said to me, says Samuel, Nay but a king shall r├Žigne over vs, when the lord your God, was your king. They would not trust Gods meanes, theire was their first fault; And then though they desird a good thing, and intended to them, yet they fix God his tyme, they would not stay his leasure; and both these, to aske other things then God would giue, or at other tymes then God would giue them is displeasing to him. XXX. But yet though God were displeasd with them, he executed his owne purpose; he was angry with their manner of asking for a King but yet he gaue them a King. Howsoeuer God be displeasd with them that prevaricate in his cause, who should sustayne him, and do not, Gods cause shall be sustaind, though they do it not.

 The process of discovery continues!