Unveiling the Character Gallery of Sermons

A Social Network Analysis of 11,955 Danish Sermons





sermons, character gallery, rhizomes, network analysis, digital humanities


In this article we examine the character gallery in a digitized corpus of 11,955 Danish sermons from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark written between 2011 and 2016. We study these sermons as a collective text production in which the characters represented illustrate aspects of Christian tradition and cultural history. We depart from the following questions: which characters populate Danish sermons, and what representations of biblical texts and history are displayed from the interrelations of these characters? In line with Bakhtinian thought we approach the sermonic character gallery as a polyphony of voices, and informed by the Deleuzian idea of the rhizome, we understand this character gallery as a network in which characters through their connections to other characters form clusters of thematic narratives. We represent this network through a social network analysis using computational tools, and closely analyse which characters are connected in the network’s sub-groups, and how. We find that biblical figures especially enhance stories of Jesus as saviour, teacher, or caretaker, while political figures tend to be dissociated from biblical figures and representing narratives of historical atrocities. In addition to these figures a large group of anonymized characters prevails.

Author Biographies

Anne Agersnap, Aarhus University

is a research assistant at the Centre for Grundtvig Studies at Aarhus University, Denmark.

Kirstine Helboe Johansen, Aarhus University

is Associate Professor in Practical Theology at Aarhus University, Denmark

Ross Deans Kristensen-McLachlan, Aarhus University

is Assistant Professor in Cognitive Science and Humanities Computing at the Centre for Humanities Computing Aarhus at Aarhus University, Denmark.




How to Cite

Agersnap, A., Johansen, K., & Kristensen-McLachlan, R. (2022). Unveiling the Character Gallery of Sermons: A Social Network Analysis of 11,955 Danish Sermons. Temenos - Nordic Journal for the Study of Religion, 58(1), 119–146. https://doi.org/10.33356/temenos.100454