Literary criticism from a Cape Town pulpit: Ramsden Balmforth's explications of modern novels as parables revealing ethical and spiritual principles
Literary criticism evolved slowly in southern Africa. One of the first commentators to write about this topic was the Unitarian minister, Ramsden Balmforth (1861-1941), a native of Yorkshire and Unitarian minister who emigrated to Cape Town in 1897. Eschewing conventional homiletics in its various forms, in dozens of instances he illustrated ethical and spiritual points in his Sunday sermons or 'discourses' by discussing their manifestation in literary works. Crucially, these texts did not merely yield illustrations of Biblical themes, but themselves served as the primary written vehicles of moral and ethical principles, and the Bible was rarely mentioned in them. Balmforth's orations about novels were published in 1912. The following year he preached about selected operas by Richard Wagner, and in the 1920s Balmforth issued two additional series of discourses focusing on dramas. In all of these commentaries he consistently emphasised thematic content rather than narrative and other literary techniques. He extracted lessons which he related to his ethically orientated version of post-orthodox religious faith.
- Faculty of Theology