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Posts Tagged ‘Michał Choiński’

Computational Stylistics and Jonathan Edwards

csgComputational Stylistics is an exciting and pioneering way to engage in literary and semantical analysis by employing statistical research. The Jagiellonian University and Polish Academy of Sciences has developed a website to share the fruit of their many projects employing this kind of research for the humanities. Here’s a brief description from the website about its project:

Computational Stylistics Group is a cross-institutional research team focused on computer-assisted text analysis, stylometry, authorship attribution, sentiment analysis, and the like stuff. The research projects conducted by the team members could be described as an intersection of linguistics, literary criticism, and computer sciences – however the best name here would be “Digital Humanities”. The group is based mostly in Kraków, at the Institute of Polish Language (Polish Academy of Sciences), but also at the Jagiellonian University and the University of Antwerp.

What is stylometry? Stylometry is the process of employing statistical analysis of variations in literary style between one writer and genre and another.

An excellent post from this new website explains its particular value for those interested in Colonial American historical studies. Project managers, including Dr. Michal Choiński, applied stylometry to around 300 sermons from the colonial era. Preachers of these sermons included: Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Jonathan Parsons, Samuel Blair and Gilbert Tennent. The goal of applying this technique of statistical study was to establish the distinguishing features of each of these preachers and to investigate the relationships between them.

The below excerpt explains Dr. Michal Choiński’s conclusions about what light stylometry sheds on understanding the image of God in Edwards’ sermons, particularly the way the semantics of the image of God in Edwards’s sermons changed over time.

The research proves that the image of God in Edwards’ writings is both multifaceted and mutable. The complexity resides in the Almighty being simultaneously portrayed as an object of religious reverence and a dynamic sustainer of the visible world. Statistically, “an angry God” from Sinners or Future Punishment is but an addition to an otherwise deeply devotional and benevolent depiction. Also, central as Edwards’s image of God remains for most texts within the oeuvre, one can hardly claim it to be perdurable. Looking at the rich corpus of the studied texts from a wider comparative perspective and with the help of stylometry, we have been able to discern a stable evolution of the manner in which Edwards talks about God, a movement from the early sermons, towards the style of the treatises and philosophical writings.

This very interesting article goes on to discuss how Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield compare, as well as the relationship between Jonathan Edwards and his editor and literary agent, Thomas Foxcroft.

I recommend reading the full write up here…

Andrew Fuller Conference | September 21-22, 2018

Andrew-Fuller-Conference-2018

 

The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany at Heidelberg University will co-host a conference on Biblical Interpretation and Early Transatlantic Evangelicalism.

The speakers include the conference hosts: the Director of the JE Center Germany, Jan Stievermann, and the Director of the Andrew Fuller Center, Michael Haykin. Joining them is a team of world-class scholars in the field (including notable Edwards scholars): Douglas Sweeney, Ken Minkema, Isabel Rivers, Bruce Hindmarsh, Crawford Gribben, Adriaan Neele, and Robert Brown.

The objective of the conference aims to bring the historiography of early transatlantic evangelicalism together with the history of biblical interpretation. The goal is to understand the exegesis of various eighteenth-century exegetes in their intellectual, cultural, and religious contexts.

To learn more about the conference speakers, schedule, and to register, visit the conference website.

Conference Website >

Sweeney’s Booknotes: The Rhetoric of the Revival

Michał Choiński. The Rhetoric of the Revival: The Language of the Great Awakening Preachers, New Directions in Jonathan Edwards Studies. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016. 212 pp. $100/£68.

ChoinskiThis insightful monograph by a young Polish scholar, Michał Choiński (a professor of American literature and culture at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland), marks the beginning of a new series of cutting-edge books published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: New Directions in Jonathan Edwards Studies. Edited by Kenneth P. Minkema and Adriaan C. Neele, this series will feature new scholarship on Edwards and his world. Its second volume, by Philip Fisk (an alumnus of TEDS), should appear in a few months.

Choiński’s book is organized in three parts. Part One sketches the history of rhetoric both in general and as background against which the composition of sermons during New England’s Great Awakening is interpreted as discourse. Part Two treats the historical and cultural context of the Awakening itself, describing its emergence over three generations (that of the so-called “Pilgrim Fathers,” the “sustainers” of the New England way, and Enlightenment-era descendants who reformed Puritan preaching for more modern churchgoers). Part Three analyzes ten rhetorically different sermons preached by six different preachers from 1739 to 1745 in New England and its environs. Choiński examines public performances by George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Gilbert Tennent, Jonathan Parsons, Jonathan Dickinson, and Andrew Croswell, featuring talks that represent a diversity of rhetorical styles and highlight the preachers’ strengths and idiosyncrasies.

The author combines a traditional rhetorical analysis of these sermons and their structure with a modern pragmatic interpretation of their effects (based on the speech-act theories of J. L. Austin, H. P. Grice, and John Searle). He is interested not only in their oratorical aspects, but also in the things that preachers accomplished with these sermons as they spoke them in particular cultural contexts.  “By paying attention to the language-related phenomena,” he writes, “we can arrive at a much deeper understanding of colonial religious thought. This book attempts to pursue this very topic—it surveys the stylistic and persuasive aspects of the language of the Great Awakening and examines the minutiae of the sermons of its important preachers” (9). Another aim, Choiński continues, “is to understand the mechanisms of rhetoric and the persuasive use of language in New England in the mid-18th century, a period which constituted an important stage in the evolution of oratory in America” (10).

Choiński claims that the words of his Great Awakening preachers “had a fantastic, almost magical power” on listeners (9). Their rhetoric, moreover, revolutionized America (or at least American speech), producing a lasting effect on modern religion, politics, and media. Or as the author makes this point in the conclusion of his book, “vivid and vibrant sermons, delivered in a dynamic manner, were particularly appealing to audiences who had been accustomed to rigid, conventional Calvinist homiletic patterns and viewed the ‘rhetoric of the revival’ as a completely original form of oratory” (202-203). This form captivated audiences for centuries to come. In fact, “in order to comprehend the present rhetorical complexity of religious discourse used in churches, in politics or in public media, one needs to look closer at its roots, especially the early revival tradition” (204).

This is a fine first book by an up-and-coming scholar of American life and letters, and a fine first volume in an up-and-coming series on Edwardsean history and thought. One only hopes that, in the future, these V & R volumes will include indices.