The pulpit and the pen
Clergy, orality and print in the Scottish Gaelic world
in The spoken word

This chapter examines primarily the role of the Protestant clergy in the Scottish Highlands as practitioners of the written word, especially in relation to the Gaelic language. It explores the manner in which literate clergymen governed and shaped the Gaelic culture by acting as the bridge-builders between oral and literary traditions, and as arbiters of literary taste and the providers of reading material for newly literate people. The chapter reflects on the ways in which the oral and literary traditions, working in different directions, influenced the corresponding products of the clergy, whether in the pulpit or at the writing-desk. Pre-Reformation clergymen who, like John Carswell himself, had accepted benefices in the reformed Church would have inherited much of the Classical Gaelic literary tradition, including literacy in the classical lingua franca. Carswell also provides a catechism which is largely his own composition and which lends itself to dramatic rendition.

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The spoken word

Oral culture in Britain 1500–1850

Editors: Adam Fox and Daniel Woolf
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