The Edmund Kemper Broadus Lectures


The annual Edmund Kemper Broadus lectures are a series of scholarly discourses sponsored and hosted by the Department of English & Film Studies and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta, and named after the legendary first Head of English at the U of A., a Virginian by birth, lured from Harvard to central Alberta by President Henry Marshall Tory in 1908 to found and run one of the University's four original departments, which he did with distinction until 1936, the year of his death.
In 1971-72, Professor Chris Drummond delivered a series of lectures that, the following year, officially gave rise to an annual departmental lecture series known as the Edmund Kemper Broadus lectures.

On November 4, 5, and 7 2019, Professor David Gay will deliver three public lectures on "Prayer, Poetry, and Polemic in Early Modern England".

Lecture 1: The Nameless Terrible Instrument

The trope of prayer as a spiritual weapon evolved out of the Lord's Prayer, a contested text seen as authorizing prescribed words by Anglicans and extemporaneous words by Puritans. Bunyan allegorizes the text as a "nameless terrible instrument" of resistance. Polemical claims for this text express cultural tensions from the late Jacobean Church to the rise of the Quaker movement. These claims expose the power and danger of religious "imaginings."

Lecture 2: The Communication of the Dead

In a century of purposeful posthumous publications, no voice from the grave was more powerful than that of King Charles I in Eikon Basilike, an intimate record of prayers and meditations published soon after his execution. Jeremy Taylor, who gave the book its title, defended set forms of prayer based on the civilizing power of poetry; John Milton, known for comparing censorship to homicide, now had to break the image of a royal martyr reincarnated in a book.

Lecture 3: The Liturgy of Dissent

Satan and Samson both enter sacred spaces to work destruction. In Paradise Lost, Milton invests elements of early modern prayers in Satan's private meditation in Book 4, the oldest part of the poem. Fittingly, Book 9 (the Fall) is a five-act classical tragedy. Conversely, Samson Agonistes is a liturgical drama of dissent. The poem is set in opposition to official state liturgies that narrated the Restoration as a fiction of divine concord.

All three lectures will take place at 3:30 p.m. in Lecture Theatre 3 of the Humanities Centre, University of Alberta.

Monday 04 November, 2019: Lecture 1: "The Nameless Terrible Instrument"

Tuesday 05 November, 2019: Lecture 2: "The Communication of the Dead"

Thursday 07 November, 2019: "The Liturgy of Dissent"

A reception in the Department of English and Film Studies, Humanities Centre Third Floor, will follow the lecture on Thursday. Everyone is welcome to these talks, which are aimed at the general public.

Professor David Gay received his BA (Hons) and MA from Queen's University, the latter with a thesis on William Blake, a writer who did much to shape his critical thinking. After teaching as an ATS faculty member at the University of Regina for four years and working as a business journalist, he entered the doctoral program at the University of Alberta, studying Milton under the supervision of Dr. James F. Forrest, the second lecturer in the Broadus series following C.Q. Drummond. He joined the Department of English and Film Studies as an ATS instructor in 1989 and as a continuing faculty member in 1990. He helped found the International John Bunyan Society (a community focused on early modern dissent) here in the early 1990s and served as the society's General Secretary for fifteen years (1995-2010) and more recently as its President (2016-2019). He is also active in Religious Studies as a former Program Director.

Over the years, his research has focused mainly on Milton and the seventeenth century, producing a monograph (The Endless Kingdom: Milton's Scriptural Society) and two co-edited collections (Awakening Words: Bunyan and the Language of Community and Locating the Past / Discovering the Present: Perspectives on Religion, Culture, and Marginality). In articles and conference presentations over the past decade, he has explored early modern religious polemics, specifically those that pit the spontaneity of free prayer against the prescriptiveness of set forms. This research highlights Lancelot Andrewes, Jeremy Taylor, John Milton, and John Bunyan. Engaging with issues such as blasphemy, fantasy, and idolatry, polemicists try to explain prayer as what Eamon Duffy calls "the most essential religious activity," and many explanations turn to poetry. In fact, defenses of liturgy show parallels with defenses of secular literature, revealing more of the tensions in the pre-secular world.