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Leverenz, D. (1975). Shared Fantasy In Puritan Sermons. Am. Imago, 32(3):264-287.

(1975). American Imago, 32(3):264-287

Shared Fantasy In Puritan Sermons

David Leverenz

“How insipid is fiction to a mind touched with immortal views!”

Mary Moody Emerson

Most studies of the Puritan sermon, especially as it was preached in America, have emphasized its intellectual rigor, its five-point or three-point formalism, its “plain style,” its judgmental and “Jeremiad” tendencies, and its fidelity to the Bible. These conscious Sunday intentions were clearly important, and many Puritans found sermons helpful for stiffening their qualities of mind as well as their habits of attention to God's word. Sermons not only served what Freud would call the “super-ego functions “of Puritan society, but they also encouraged mental toughness, a faith in “larger patterns,” and a variety of community bonds, no small need in a wilderness that made survival itself improbable.

But sermons, like any works of art, also encouraged their audience toward shared fantasy. Especially for the first generation of American Puritans, these fantasies were stimulated by the imagery given to words, such as “God,” “Christ,” “sin,” “self,” “grace,” even “the Word.”

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