Jiří HomoláčTereza HulíkováKamila Karhanová

The shabby clothes of St. Bernard (A textual analysis of a Baroque sermon)


     This analysis of J. A. Vokoun’s Czech baroque sermon on St. Bernard is concerned with the following aspects of the text: 1. how the motif of St. Bernard’s shabby clothes is progressively elaborated in the course of the sermon; 2. how both the subjects of the author and of the implied recipient are constituted in (and by) the text; 3. intertextual relations to the Bible; 4. the “tectonics” of the text (a term preferred to “composition”), that is, how the text and its meaning are gradually constituted by means of certain devices such as repetition, variation, contrast and the gradation of motifs.

     Characteristic features of the conceit, a genre whose existence in Czech Baroque homiletics is no longer in doubt, are present in abundance in the text analysed: paradox, puns, anagrams, parallels, to name but the most prominent among them. Nonetheless, unlike much of the literature up to now, which has considered these devices to be used mainly to surprise and entertain, we believe the nature of the conceit to reside in their progressive interlinking and not merely in their separate presence in the text.

     Other issues addressed in the study include theatricality as one of the most characteristic features of the Baroque style, how it is rendered in Vokoun’s sermon, the status of the rhetorician (author) in the given genre, and, last but not least, the measure of esthetical originality of the sermon on the one hand and the degree to which it conforms to the period conventions on the other. As far as Baroque theatricality is concerned, it does not consist merely in the use of dialogue on the formal side; in the sermon analysed the author-preacher is acting out the process of persuading his listeners, making a show of it.