Mark Koch, Interim Coordinator of Writing 2-3 in the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, has been awarded a grant from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation to work in London this summer on a project titled "The Rhetoric of Charity: The English Charity Sermon from 1680 to 1750." Koch will explore London libraries to discover more about the charity sermons of late 17th- and early 18th-century England. His research shows that, while the Protestant Reformation eroded the traditional practice of almsgiving by asserting that divine grace is granted through faith alone and not through almsdeeds, there was nonetheless a need to fund institutions of poor relief and thus to formulate new rationales for charitable giving. The new incentives for charity were presented in numerous sermons beginning around the time of the Restoration. Many of these sermons argued that almsdeeds are accompanied with a sensual pleasure and articulated principles of sympathetic response.
Koch hopes to show how the motives that were formulated in these sermons are essential to understanding not only eighteenth-century Sentimentalism, but nineteenth-century humanitarianism, and perhaps even twentieth- and twenty-first-century ideas of sympathy and altruism.
This Whiting Foundation award will allow Koch to complete a comprehensive study of these charity sermons, which is a part of a longer project on almsgiving, beggary, and charitable exchange in eighteenth-century British literature. Koch plans to use this research to create a writing course on the theme of charity that examines "the many reasons why people are persuaded to give to others something for which nothing is returned." Director of the Institute, Christiane Donahue, says “we are very pleased that Mark’s work is being acknowledged through this Whiting Foundation grant. His analyses help us to see a continuum of writing features across time and context, writing as re-inventing itself in different contexts, and the illumination gained by analysis of archival documents.”