[Adapted from George P. Landow, Victorian Types, Victorian Shadows: Biblical Typology in Victorian Literature, Art, and Thought (1980). Follow for full text.]

The nature of the sage's enterprise demands that both he and his audience conceive of his role as a special one — as one, in fact, that is distinguished by his superior comprehension of the significance of transitory phenomena and their relation to eternal laws or principles. The sermon, particularly the Evangelical sermon, establishes precisely the desired position of sage in relation to his readers and offers other necessary elements as well. For example, the sage must convince his audience not only that he possesses superior vision but also that his subjects and examples are indeed significant. The Victorian preacher, who confronted the same problems, often attracted his audiencežs attention by identifying an interpretive crux which he presented as being especially important, intriguing, or paradoxical. In showing his congregation how unexpected truths often lay hidden in the most unexpected places — particularly in types — this preacher convinced his listeners that he could provide them with something of value.

One important technique in this procedure takes the form of defining or redefining major terms, such as "Christian," "type," and "sacrifice." This practice effectively demonstrates that the preacheržs congregation does not properly understand crucial matters: at best its members are ignorant and uninformed, at worst they find their sinful state preventing them from seeing with clear eyes. This procedure consequently demonstrates to his listeners that they need his leadership. Having established his definitions, the preacher frequently points to the literal meaning of his text and sets forth whatever lessons or problems it may contain.

Then, if he concerns himself with setting forth types and shadows of Christ, the preacher again leads and entertains his audience by revealing his ability to perceive important truths in unexpected places. Some Evangelical preachers, such as Spurgeon, would also relate their personal experiences as models for their congregations, and again such a practice confirms the audience's dependent relationship. All of these matters of procedure mark the writings of the Victorian Sage, many of which bear the obvious impress of the homiletic tradition. In particular, Ruskin's Modern Painters (1843-60), The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1848), The Stones of Venice (1851-2), and "Traffic" (1858), which employ a number of typologically supported arguments, often read like sermons about the relation of aesthetic concerns to Bible fact.

The Sage's Techniques


Victorian Web Genre and Technique

Last modified 1996