Nicolas Bourgès : Freeing the soul from alienating sins – an analysis of edifying stories about executed convicts in 18th-century English texts and sermons.

Texts about convicts sentenced to death in 18th-century English prisons show how sin was considered as a sign of alienation from the social and religious community. Specific sermons were written on the matter in order to show those prisoners what was at stake for them when facing divine judgement, using repentance as a central argument for emancipation from sin. Those sermons were then published in order to create edifying stories which were supposed to show what would happen to anyone sinking into a life of crime. I will focus on an argumentative analysis of those works and others – confessions and letters – to point out their moral, religious and philosophical dimension, as well as some of their limits, while setting them in the context of the debate about capital punishment in 18th-century England.

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