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Title page for ETD etd-07122018-164009

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Ayris, Alexander Austin
URN etd-07122018-164009
Title "A Battle of Books": The Westminster Conference of 1559 and the Rise of Disputative Literature
Degree PhD
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Paul Lim Committee Chair
Emily Nacol Committee Member
Joel Harrington Committee Member
Karl Gunther Committee Member
Peter Lake Committee Member
  • Reformation
  • polemic
  • Catholic
  • Protestant
  • England
Date of Defense 2018-03-15
Availability restricted
This dissertation revitalizes and revisits the historical category of polemic by arguing for the existence of a distinct subgenre within polemic that was constructed as oral university-style disputation. It does by first analyzing the Westminster conference of 1559, the intellectual climate of late Renaissance England, and John Jewel’s subsequent ‘challenge sermon,’ which was the catalyst for the printed controversial works examined here. It then analyzes several of the print exchanges between Protestants and Catholics that were direct outgrowths of the Westminster conference and elucidates two distinct facets of disputative literature within them. The first of these is disputative methodology, or the use of sixteenth-century intellectual methods that accorded with oral disputation to construct their works. This is the primary defining characteristic of disputative literature, but it also reveals that late Renaissance authors were much more idiosyncratic and eclectic in their methods than previous scholarship has allowed for. The second is portrayals of moderation and, relatedly, denunciations of immoderation in the opponent. This is reflective of burgeoning social conventions in Elizabethan England that linked the social virtues of moderation and civility with intellectual credibility. In addition, this study highlights the rhetoric of abuse, or authors’ use of ad hominem, sarcasm, ridicule, and the like in these works. Elucidating vitriol in works expected to be academic and moderate reveals both the authors’ mindset that such language was justified in the name of religious truth, but also reveals that such rhetoric was neither new nor the sole property of early modern libel.
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