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Intertextuality in English-language Catholic sermons

Sorokina Evgenia Evgen'evna

PhD student, English Language Chair, Orenburg State Pedagogical University

460019, Russia, Orenburg region, Orenburg, Sovetskaya str., 19

Other publications by this author










Abstract: The relevance of this study is due to the small study of the issue of intertextuality in English-speaking Catholic preaching in modern Russian science. The purpose of this article is to study various types of intertextuality and the linguistic techniques by which they are expressed in modern English-speaking Catholic preaching by the example of the preaching addresses of Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster (Diocese of Westminster, London, UK). The object of the study is an Englishlanguage Catholic sermon, the subject is intertextuality and its varieties (referential, prototypical (textotypological)), manifested in the above text. In writing this work, we were guided by such methods of scientific research as analytical and descriptive. The scientific novelty lies in the consideration of the phenomenon of intertextuality, one of the manifestations of which is the functional-semantic category of appeal. The conducted research indicates that in the Catholic sermon there are elements of both RI and PI, where RI is represented by various quotations, allusions and retelling of the author's text, and PI is a mention of God in all three Persons, respectful euphemisms for His Name and the Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mentioning the names of saints, biblical heroes, characteristic religious vocabulary, the use of "we-constructions" to create an image of the unity of the preacher with the audience, as well as appellative constructions represented by the verbs of ought, influence, as well as the imperative mood of the verb and the simple present tense of the verb with a hint of ought.


intertextuality, referential intertextuality, prototypical intertextuality, the sermon, Catholicism, Great Britain, christianity, God, Jesus Christ, Church

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

In the last few decades, interest in the study of such a type of institutional discourse as preaching has sharply increased in Russian science. Among the well-known authors who have created publications on this issue, one can cite the names of L. P. Krysin, O. A. Prokhvatilova, O. A. Krylova, T. V. Itskovich, N. B. Mechkovskaya, V. I. Karasik, L. V. Levshun, Yu. V. Mitina [1-8] and many others. In the study, we will be guided by the traditional vision of the concept of discourse proposed by N. D. Arutyunova, who understands this phenomenon not just as a coherent text, but in combination with various non-linguistic factors, i.e. as "speech acting in the interaction of people and in their cognitive processes" [9, p. 136].

Discussing the concept of discourse as a text in a communicative situation, V. I. Karasik divides discourse into two types based on a sociolinguistic approach. According to this approach, discourse can be personal, which is divided, in turn, into everyday and existential subtypes, and institutional. The personal discourse is defined by the author as a discursive variety in which "the personality appears in all the richness of his inner world" [10, p. 5], and the institutional (hereinafter ID) assumes the personality "as a representative of a certain social institution" [ibid.].

The philologist explains ID as "communication within the given framework of status-role relations" [ibid., p. 10]. In addition, the system-forming features of the ID, as the scientist notes, are the goals and participants. This type of discourse involves agents, i.e. those who represent a public institution, and clients (people who turn to them for a specific purpose). Also, the author of the above classification of discourse indicates that the participants of the ID differ not only in the qualities and prescriptions of behavior, but also in how open the discourse is: for example, in business discourse there is no difference between an agent and a client, unlike, say, a religious kind of discourse.

Let's define the sermon as a genre of religious discourse, which is a kind of ID. Archbishop Averky (Taushev) in his "Guide to Homiletics" understands by Christian preaching "the proclamation of the gospel teaching about our salvation in a living speech before the people" [11]. Moreover, the author of the manual reveals the duality of the nature of preaching. On the one hand, as an appeal to the people, it is a kind of oratorical work built according to the laws of rhetoric. On the other hand, preaching, as the proclamation of the Gospel before people, has a church-religious orientation, being the fulfillment of the Lord's command to the apostles (and through them to the priests) to teach all nations the Good News.

The sermon, like any text, has inclusions from other texts called intertextual. The beginning of intertextual research was laid in the works of the Soviet literary critic M. M. Bakhtin, who proposed the idea of dialogicity of the text and argued that understanding of the text is possible only if it is "reinterpreted in a new context" [12], preceded by a comparison of the text with other texts previously created before it. The process of understanding the text involves several stages: "the starting point is this text, the backward movement is past contexts, the forward movement is anticipation (and the beginning) of the future context" [ibid.]. In other words, understanding the meaning of a text depends on contextual factors. Further, Bakhtin's provisions were developed in the works of the French linguist of Bulgarian origin, poststructuralism theorist Yulia Kristeva (born in 1947), who proposed the term "intertextuality". Y. Kristeva believes that intertextuality is fundamentally different from intertext as such, and understands by this concept "permutation of texts" [13, p. 35], "the transposition of one or more sign systems into another sign system" [ibid.], in other words, the creation of a new text at the expense of fragments of previous texts. The French linguist of our days Nathalie Piege-Gros states that intertextuality is "a device in which one text overwrites another text" [14, p. 49].I. P. Shishkina and E. A. Goncharova note that there are always two types of relations between any text and other texts created before it represented by "either referential or formal-typological" varieties [15, p. 22].

The classification of intertextuality into referential and prototypical (textotypological) is based on the above criteria by the mentioned authors. The referential kind of intertextuality (hereinafter referred to as RI) is understood as "intertextual interaction due to the presence of fragments of another in one text" [ibid., pp. 22-23], moreover, despite the manifestation of this intertextual interaction "at the formal-compositional level" [ibid.], it is semantic. In turn, prototypical intertextuality (hereinafter referred to as PI) is based on the idea of the presence within the variety of texts used in various spheres of communication and public life of "intentional expression of features typical of a certain type of texts and therefore repeated in them" [ibid., p. 23]. According to I. P. Shishkina and E. A. Goncharova, the main intertextual inclusion in scientific communication is citation. The following classification of quotations (verbatim excerpts of previously published texts with indication of sources) is given according to the purpose of the introduction and functions: quotations-arguments (perform an evidentiary function, are part of the author's argumentation), quotations-examples (serve to illustrate the author's judgments, can be the starting point for the researcher's polemic with the author of the preface), quotations-substitutes (they serve to express the author's point of view with the help of other people's words, often with the involvement of "references to authority" [ibid., p. 25]. In addition, the authors of the above classification mention allusion as a kind of intertextuality, suggesting that the reader "binds" a certain statement in the text to the corresponding source by association.

The material for our research was several sermons by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Diocese of Westminster of the Roman Catholic Church (Great Britain), which were delivered in London's Westminster Cathedral in the period from February to June 2022. For analysis, we will use the above classification of varieties of intertextuality.

Let's start the analysis by considering the homily "Homily for Pentecost and the Queen's Platinum Jubilee" ("Homily for the Feast of the Trinity and the platinum jubilee of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II"), delivered on the Day of the Holy Trinity according to the Catholic calendar, June 5, 2022 [16]. The theme of this sermon is the Day of the Holy Trinity, which in the Christian world is considered the birthday of the Church, and the true meaning of this holiday. Signs of RI in this sermon can serve, for example, references to the Christmas speeches of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, whose Platinum Jubilee of the reign (Elizabeth II was crowned in 1952 E. S. Note) coincided with a church holiday. Here are the images with which Her Majesty compares Christ and His teaching in these passages: "my inner light" ("my inner light"); "the bedrock of <...> faith" ("the foundation of faith"); "the inspiration and anchor in my life" ("inspiration and anchor of my life"). The author of the sermon uses these passages to show how the example of the queen following the teachings of Christ could help ordinary parishioners in spiritual life (for example, showing respect for people regardless of religion). In addition, the author refers the listener to Michelangelo's famous painting in the Sistine Chapel, dedicated to the events of Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, using it as an image to which the preacher likens the Holy Spirit. Another feature of RI in this sermon are references to the Catholic hymn to the Holy Spirit, sung at the service, when describing the images that the Holy Spirit is likened to: "blessed light" ("blessed light"), "living power" ("life-giving power"), "sweet unction" ("sweet anointing"), "finger of God's right hand" ("finger of the right hand of God"). The preacher's quote "She might now add: "And [to respect] Paddington Bear, too"" ("She could add: "And also [respect] Paddington Bear"") is also a sign of RI, referring to the events of June 5, 2022, when a bear joined the celebration of the Platinum Jubilee of the queen's reign Paddington, the hero of the famous series of books by the English writer Michael Bond. Signs of PI can be called the mention of God in all three Persons (God, Christ, Holy Spirit ("God, Christ, Holy Spirit"), the use of so-called "we-constructions" that performs a unifying function ("today we celebrate ..." ("today we celebrate ..."), "it's our birthday..." (this is the birthday of [our Church], "each one of us..." ("each of us"), "we try to understand the Holy Spirit..." ("we are trying to understand the Holy Spirit"), a reference to the events of the holiday reflected in the Book of Acts of the Holy Apostles, chapter 2 ("the day we remember how frightened apostles became bold, how the message of our healing and wholeness began to be offered to a needy world" ("on the day when we remember the courage of the previously frightened apostles, when the news of our healing and restoration of a holistic relationship with God began to reach those in need around the world to the world")). In addition, a sign of PI in this sermon may be the presence of various kinds of constructions that perform an appellative function (i.e., the function of calling the addressee to perform certain mental actions). For example, this is the use of imperative modality constructions ("think, for a minute..." ("think for a minute..."), "let us not forget these words of witness..." ("let's not forget these words of testimony")), constructions like "we can..." ("we can take them to heart and <...> make them our own" (we can keep them [words of testimony] in the heart and pronounce them as our own").

Let us define the intertextual signs of the sermon "Cardinal's Homily for Mass of the Lord's Supper" ("Cardinal's Homily for Mass dedicated to the Last Supper"), delivered on Maundy Thursday according to the Catholic calendar, April 14, 2022[17]. The theme of this sermon is the Last Supper and the end of Lent. Let's first consider the signs of RI. Firstly, these are allusions to the Old Testament events of the 40-year wandering of the Jewish people in the desert, led by God from Egypt in search of the promised land: "For those long years the people lived ... <...>" ("For many years people lived ..."). As the preacher points out, these 40 years correspond to the modern 40-day field of Great Lent, which Christians go through, and the 40-day fast of Christ, which began after His baptism in the Jordan. Secondly, these are quotes from the prayer sequence for the holiday, for example, "most sacred supper" [18] ("the most sacred meal"), which describes the spiritual significance of the events of the Last Supper. Signs of PI in this sermon may be references to God, Christ, biblical heroes (God, Christ, Jesus, St. Paul), the Old Testament reading of the day (the Book of Exodus, the story of the first Easter holiday), as well as characteristic religious vocabulary: "banquet of heaven"("heavenly meal"), "penance, prayer and extra charity" ("repentance, prayer and intensified works of mercy"), "the great gift of the Mass" ("the great gift of the Mass"). In addition, a feature of PI in the sermon is the inclusion of various constructions that perform an appellative function. One of such constructions is the use of the verbs of ought ("we need to look back" ("we need to look back"), "we need to be cleansed" ("we need to be cleansed"), "we are to keep our wits about us" ("we should take care of ourselves")), verbs in the simple present tense in the context of ought ("we know again" (we learn again), "we see again" (we see again), "we rejoice" (we rejoice), "we serve one another" (we serve each other)).

Next, we turn to the sermon "Homily for Mass in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes" ("Homily for Mass in honor of the Virgin of Lourdes") [19]. This sermon was delivered on February 11, 2022 on the day of the celebration of the phenomenon Our Lady of Lourdes. The theme of this sermon is how the example of the help of the Mother of God to the inhabitants of the French city of Lourdes in suffering can help modern Christians in spiritual life. RI in the text of this sermon is manifested in the following signs. Firstly, it is itself a reference to the events that took place in the city of Lourdes (according to legend, on this day in 1858 in this city, the Virgin Herself appeared to a girl named Bernadette, later canonized by the Catholic Church. Further, this is a quote from the Old Testament reading of the day "To his servants the Lord will reveal his hand" ("And the Lord's hand will be opened to His servants" (Synodal translation)) [20], which, as the preacher notes, serves to express God's infinite love and compassion. Secondly, such a sign may be a retelling of the story of the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, where Christ was invited with His Mother and disciples, and where the Mother of God asked Her Divine Son to save the owners of the house from shame, who had no wine left, which He did, initiating His miracles. In addition, the preacher refers listeners to the story, explaining that the word "Woman", with which Jesus addresses His Mother, in His time did not have a negative connotation, but meant "mistress". It is also indicated that this is what the Roman Emperor Mark Antony called his wife Cleopatra. Another sign of RI in the text of this sermon is a reference to card games, when the preacher explains that in the game to open his hand and show the rest of his cards means defeat and the possibility of winning for other players. According to V. Nichols, similar motives, "opening His hand to people" can also be guided by God, Who has no interest in competition and wants to open His "cards" to people, representing gifts of God's grace and suffering similar to Christ's, to which He calls us. Signs of PI in the text of this sermon can be considered the mention of God the Father, Christ, the Mother of God, saints, respectful euphemisms for the Names of Persons of the Holy Trinity and the Virgin (God the Father, the Lord, Christ, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Bernadette (God the Father, the Lord, Christ, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary, the Lady of Lourdes, Saint Bernadette), the Gospel reading of the day (the Gospel of John 2), the Old Testament reading (the Book of the prophet Isaiah 66), the typical ending for the Catholic sermon "Amen" ("Amen"). In addition, PI also manifests itself in constructions that perform an appellative function. It is realized in the use of the verbs of ought ("this is how we should take to heart..." ("this is how we should take to heart ...") and the present simple tense with the subtext of ought ("we pray...", "we know..."), as well as constructions serving the same purpose "the more the more..." ("But the more deeply we become servants, as Jesus did, the more deeply we are bound to him" ("the more we serve each other like Jesus, the stronger our relationship with Him will be").

Finally, we will identify intertextual signs in the homily "Homily for Easter Vigil 2022" ("Homily for Easter Evening Service") [21], delivered on April 16, 2022, during the Easter evening service according to the Catholic calendar. The theme of this sermon is the Resurrection of Christ, his images are a candle and a cross. Let's first consider the signs of RI. Among them, one can name, for example, a quote from Pope Gregory the Great (in fact, this is a quote from Pope Leo the Great): "The body that lies lifeless in the tomb is ours. <...> We too are to rise and share his glory" [22] ("A lifeless body laid in a coffin is ours. <...> We must also rise again and be in His glory"). You can also cite a well-known quote from the Gospel, with which the preacher reminds listeners of the Resurrection of Christ: "Why do you look among the dead? He is not here; he is risen!" [23] ("What are you looking for <...> between the dead? He is not here, He has risen!" (Synodal translation)) (this is a quote from an angel sitting on a fallen stone, in relation to the myrrh-bearing wives who came on the morning of Resurrection to anoint the Savior's Body with perfumes, according to Jewish custom. In addition, this is an allusion to recent events the problem of millions of refugees around the world fleeing from hostilities, other types of violence, poverty, climate change, human trafficking, etc. The preacher compares them with the Jewish people who wandered through the desert after their exodus from Egypt for 40 years in search of the promised land by God, and calls on the audience to send a prayer to God for these refugees. The signs of PI in the text of this sermon are: mention of God and Christ, respectful euphemisms for Their Names (Christ, Jesus, God, Creator (Christ, Jesus, God, Creator), mention of Biblical heroes (Paul (Apostle Paul)), mention of Old Testament books read at the service (Ezekiel ("The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel"), Exodus ("Book of Exodus")), mention of church services (vigil (evening service, vigil), the temple and its parts (altar (altar), cathedral (cathedral)), as well as the use of "we are constructions" that perform a unifying function: "we have spent time ..."("we spent time..."), "something of our story too..." ("something from our life with you ..."), "our deepest ancestry" ("our distant ancestors"), etc. The appellative function, which is also prototypical, in this sermon is performed by various constructions. For example, this is the appeal "brothers and sisters" ("brothers and sisters"), which also serves to implement a unifying function, the construction "it is all the more important that we firmly grasp the candle ..." ("this does not negate the importance of the fact that we must take a firm grip on the candle"), the use of the present simple tense in the context of due ("we live through suffering" ("our life is overcoming suffering"), "we keep our eyes fixed" ("we do not take our eyes off ...")).

The conducted research allows us to conclude that in the Catholic sermon there are elements of both RI and PI, where RI is represented by various quotations, allusions and retelling of the author's text, and PI is a mention of God in all three Persons, respectful euphemisms for His Name and the Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mentioning the names of saints, biblical heroes, characteristic religious vocabulary, the use of "we-constructions" to create an image of the unity of the preacher with the audience, as well as appellative constructions represented by the verbs of ought, influence, as well as the imperative mood of the verb and the simple present tense of the verb with a hint of ought.

1. Krysin, L.P. Religious and preaching style and its place in the functional and stylistic paradigm of the modern Russian literary language // Poetics. Stylistics. Language and culture / In memory of T.G. Vinokur. M., 1996
2. Prokhvatilova, O. A. To the Stylistic Status of Modern Religious Speech. / O. A. Prokhvatilova // Stereotypes and art in texts. / Ed. M. P. Kotyurova. Issue 11. Perm, 2007. 58-65 pp.
3. Krylova, O. A., Savin G. A. The communicative strategy of the Orthodox preacher in the modern church-religious discourse. / O. A. Krylova, G. A. Savin. // Philologic Sciences. Moscow, Russian Education and Science Ministry Publishers, 2008. 6. 53-59 pp.
4. Itskovich, T. V. The Orthodox Sermon as a religious style genre. / T. V. Itskovich // Linguistics and cross-cultural communication. Krasnoyarsk: NITS, 2011. 128-147 pp.
5. Mechkovskaya, N. B. Language and Religion: a book for humanitarian university students. / N. B. Mechkovskaya. M.: FAIR Agency Publishers, 1998. 352 p.
6. Karasik, V. I. The Language Circle: personality, concepts, discourse. / V. I. Karasik. M.: Gnosis Publishers, 2004. 390 p.
7. Levshun, L. V. The sermon as a genre of literature (on the material of sermons in manuscripts and early printed collections): PhD diss. abstract / L. V. Levshun; World Literature Institute. M.: 1992. 20 p.
8. Mitina Yu. V. Lexics with religious semantics and its stylistic functions on hagiographic examples of the 15th century: PhD diss. abstract / Yu. V. Mitina; Moscow Pedagogical University. M.: 2000. 17 p.
9. Arutyunova, N. D. Discourse. / Linguistic encyclopedic dictionary. Moscow: Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya, 1990. 136-137 pp.
10. Karasik, V. I. On the types of discourse. / V. I. Karasik // The Linguistic Personality: the institutional and the personal types of discourse: Scientific compilation. Volgograd: Peremena, 2000. 5-20 pp. Retrieved from: https://rudocs.exdat.com/docs/index-267604.html
11. Archbishop Averky (Taushev). A Homiletics Manual. / Archbishop Averky (Taushev). Moscow, 2001. 144 p. Retrieved from: https://azbyka.ru/otechnik/Averkij_Taushev/rukovodstvo-po-gomiletike/
12. Bakhtin, M. M. To the Methodology of Humanitarian Sciences. In Aesthetics of verbal art Ed. 2, ., 1986, pp. 381-393, 429-432
13. Kristeva, J. Sèméiotiké. Recherches pour une sémanalyse [Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art]. / J. Kristeva. P.: Seuil, 1969. 265 p.
14. Piégay-Gros, N. An Introduction to the Intertextual Theory. Translated from French. / N. Piégay-Gros. / Introduction by chief editor G. K. Kosikov. Moscow: LKI Publishers, 2008. 240 p. Retrieved from: http://abuss.narod.ru/Biblio/piegegro.htm
15. Goncharova, Ye. A., Shishkina, I. P. Text Interpretation. German Language. / Ye. A. Goncharova, I. P. Shishkina. Moscow: Vyshchaya Shkola Publishers, 2005. 368 p.
16. Sermon Cardinal Vincent Nichols Homily for Pentecost and the Queens Platinum Jubilee. Retrieved from: https://rcdow.org.uk/cardinal/homilies/homily-for-pentecost-and-the-queens-platinum-jubilee/
17. Sermon Cardinal Vincent Nichols Homily for Mass of the Lords Supper 2022. Retrieved from: https://rcdow.org.uk/cardinal/homilies/cardinals-homily-for-mass-of-the-lords-supper-2022/
18. Ignatius Pew Missal: Maundy Thursday Planning Guide. Retrieved from: http://www.pewmissal.com/brand_new/index.php/planning-guide/holy-week/maundy-thursday/
19. Sermon Cardinal Vincent Nichols Homily for Mass in Honour of Our Lady of Lourdes. Retrieved from: https://rcdow.org.uk/cardinal/homilies/cardinals-homily-formass-in-honour-of-our-lady-of-lourdes/
20. Biblical reference (KJV) The Book of Isaiah 66:14
21. Sermon Cardinal Vincent Nichols Homily for Easter Vigil 2022. Retrieved from: https://rcdow.org.uk/cardinal/homilies/homily-for-easter-vigil-2022/
22. Contemplating the Lords Passion (from a sermon by Leo the Great, 5th century). Retrieved from: https://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/passion.htm
23. Biblical reference (KJV) The Gospel according to Luke 24:5

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The article "Intertextuality in English-speaking Catholic sermons" submitted for consideration, proposed for publication in the journal "Litera", is undoubtedly relevant, due to the consideration of religious texts, which, as well as religion, are currently experiencing increased interest and attention, which led to inclusion in the list of scientific specialties of the Higher Attestation Commission of theology, and There is also the widespread opening of theology departments and house temples at universities. The article is groundbreaking, one of the first in Russian linguistics devoted to the study of such topics in the 21st century. The practical material of the reviewed work was several sermons by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Diocese of Westminster of the Roman Catholic Church (Great Britain), which were delivered at London's Westminster Cathedral in the period from February to June 2022. However, the scope and principles of sampling the linguistic material on which the study is based are unclear. The author does not specify the sample size and its principles. How large is the text corpus of the study? The article presents a research methodology, the choice of which is quite adequate to the goals and objectives of the work. The author turns, among other things, to various methods to confirm the hypothesis put forward. The following research methods are used: biographical, hermeneutical, dialectical. This work was done professionally, in compliance with the basic canons of scientific research. We note the scrupulous work of the author on the selection of practical material and its analysis. All theoretical conclusions are illustrated by excerpts of English-language texts taken from the corpus under study. The research was carried out in line with modern scientific approaches, the work consists of an introduction containing the formulation of the problem, the main part, traditionally beginning with a review of theoretical sources and scientific directions, a research and a final one, which presents the conclusions obtained by the author. The bibliography of the article includes 23 sources, among which works are presented in both Russian and foreign languages. Unfortunately, the article does not contain references to fundamental works such as monographs, PhD and doctoral dissertations. A technical error is not to follow the generally accepted alphabetical arrangement of the list of cited sources, as well as mixing works in Russian and foreign languages. In general, it should be noted that the article is written in a simple, understandable language for the reader. Typos, spelling and syntactic errors, inaccuracies in the text of the work were not found. The work is innovative, representing the author's vision of solving the issue under consideration and may have a logical continuation in further research. The practical significance of the research lies in the possibility of using its results in the process of teaching university courses in the stylistics of the English language and textual studies. The article will undoubtedly be useful to a wide range of people, philologists, undergraduates and graduate students of specialized universities. The article "Intertextuality in English-speaking Catholic sermons" may be recommended for publication in a scientific journal.
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