The use of the Prayer Book : the Book of Common Prayer (1549-1604) as technical writing for an oral-aural culture
Prayer Book Society. John Cosin Scholarship for Postgraduate Research relating to the Book of Common Prayer
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Although by far the most widely performed text in English, the Prayer Book has long been neglected by literary scholars because of its functional nature and ignored by technical writing scholars because of its religious nature. The present study contributes to the redress of this neglect. In his preface to the 1540 Great Bible, Cranmer warned against the risk of abusing the divine word that vernacular translation increased. The 1547 Sacrament Act required communion to be administered in both kinds in obedience to scripture and accompanied by exhortations on the benefits and risks of communion. The Book of Common Prayer, first promulgated in 1549, provided a means of facilitating and regulating these earlier, related initiatives towards the reformation of the Church and Kingdom of England (understood as a single body). The Book of Common Prayer replaced diffuse and complicated medieval Latin liturgies with a single, highly usable English Use for public worship, conceptualized primarily as an oral-aural exchange, with visual and ceremonial components re-designed to promote the “due use” of the word, in public reading, sermons, and sacramental administration for public edification. I argue that the involvement-oriented oral features of the book enhanced its usability. Repetitiveness, formulae, rhythm, agonistic framing, and a minimum of user choice contributed to the ease with which users learned to animate the new liturgies, and its attractiveness – in terms of capturing attention, delighting, and compelling – promoted memorability. This survey of successes, challenges, and failures in the implementation of the Prayer Book in the century after its promulgation amounts to an account of the birth of the Church of England through the critical role played by the most widely used piece of English technical writing in that birth.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internationalhttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Embargo Date: 2027-08-18
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Restricted until 18th August 2027
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