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While it may seem obvious to conclude that a controversial movement would be shaped by controversy, Textual Warfare examines the specific ways Methodist belief, practice, and self-understanding were filtered through the anti-Methodist critique; the particular historic and cultural conditions that informed this process; and the overwhelming extent to which Methodism in the eighteenth century was mediated by texts and rhetorical exchange. The proliferation of print media and the relative freedom of the press in the eighteenth century; the extent to which society generally and Methodism specifically promoted literacy; and a cultural sensibility predisposed to open debate on matters of public interest, ensured the development of a public sphere in which individuals came together to deliberate, in conversation and in print, on a range of issues relevant to the larger community. It was within this sphere that Methodist religiosity, including the intensely private nature of spiritual conversion, became matters of civic concern on an unprecedented scale and that Methodism ultimately took its form.
Brett C. McInelly is an associate professor of English at Brigham Young University, where he teaches composition and literature. He has published articles on Defoe and Smollett, among others, as well as articles on the literary reception of Methodism in the eighteenth century. He is also the founding editor of Religion in the Age of Enlightenment.