Exeter-Hall Science and Evangelical Rhetoric in Mid-Victorian Britain

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    In the early and mid-Victorian period public pronouncements by evangelicals were often described as the antithesis of rational speech. The voice of science, on the other hand, was routinely equated with the voice of reason. This disparity was particularly clear in satirical and critical commentary about the platform rhetoric associated with London’s Exeter Hall, a key meeting place for evangelicals and a metonym for evangelical expressions of Christian belief. It was against this backdrop that the fledgling Young Men’s Christian Association inaugurated a popular series of lectures in 1845. Held in Exeter Hall from 1848, the series ran until 1865 and proved to be immensely popular. By investigating the ways in which the promotion of science was combined with religious exhortation in the YMCA lectures, this paper examines how evangelicals positioned themselves with respect to the growing cultural authority of science. The paper also argues that these efforts were indelibly marked by the Hall and the communicative medium in which they were made. As such, the paper sheds light on the significance of platform culture within and beyond evangelicalism and on the importance of venue and audience in understanding science and religion relations in an age of lecturing.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)46-64
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Victorian Culture
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Literature and Literary Theory
    • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
    • Cultural Studies


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