Gillespie, Vincent and Kantik Ghosh, eds, After Arundel: Religious Writing in Fifteenth-Century England.
This monumental tome contains eleven sections and thirty papers. Its gargantuan scale betrays its birth in a conference, held to mark the 600th anniversary of the promulgation of Archbishop Thomas Arundel's anti-Wycliffite Constitutions. The brief Introduction by editors Vincent Gillespie and Kantik Ghosh merely gestures at major themes, so readers are left to make their own sense of the collection and to speculate, perhaps, whether it might have been more appropriately entitled 'After Nicholas Watson', around whose influential articles so many of the contributions pivot.
Part I, 'Opening Salvos', gives the Big Guns (Gillespie, Michael G. Sargent, and Ian Johnson) plenty of space to canvas broad ideas and discharge their artillery on such questions as, how important really were the Arundel Constitutions for the development of fifteenth-century English religious writing compared to, say, the Council of Constance or the Black Death, and is the vogue term 'vernacular theology' now passe? The historian Jeremy Catto's elegant contribution on the openness of the English ruling class to French culture seems out of place here.
Part II, 'Discerning the Discourse: Language, Image and Spirituality', offers James Simpson on attitudes to images, Christopher Bradley criticising Watson's readings of Love's Mirror and the still-unedited Pore Caitif, and David Lawton on 'voice', particularly in fifteenth-century writings on the Psalms.
Part III, 'The Dynamics of Orthodox Reform', focuses on the institutional Church, with Alexander Russell on the ambivalence of Thomas Netter (a still neglected figure) towards conciliarism, David Lepine on Salisbury Cathedral's liturgical and administrative reforms, Sheila Lindenbaum on reforming London clerics, clerical education, and teaching, and James Willoughby on the establishment of freely accessible libraries in London, Worcester, Bristol, and Norwich.
In Part IV 'Ecclesiastical Humanism', Daniel Wakelin writes on an unedited English translation of Book I of Petrarch's Secretum and Andrew Cole on humanist 'mirrors for bishops'.
Part V, on the reformist but orthodox Reginald Pecock, offers Allan F. Westphall on the bishop's Reule of Crysten Religioun, lay education, and the 'hool' (i.e., 'mixed') life, and Tamas Karath on his Folewer to the Donet and its classification of knowledge, compared with The Court of Sapience.
Part VI, 'Literary Self-Consciousness and Literary History', signals a textual turn, especially towards texts associated with religious orders: Helen Barr historicises the (probably Benedictine) Digby Lyrics through its syntax and 'homely' diction; Susanna Fein excavates the Augustinian canon John Audelay's neglected Counsel of Conscience and its fantastically indulgenced prayers, 'spiritual exercises' composed for a noble family; W. H. E. Sweet writes on the piety of the Benedictine Lydgate, and his poetic palinode in old age.
Part VII, 'The Codex as Instrument of Reform', sharpens the focus to individual manuscripts, with Stephen Kelly and Ryan Perry on devotional compilations (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MSS Bodley 789 and Laud 23), and the shifting boundaries of orthodoxy and Wycliffite belief, Niamh Pattwell on Augustinian canons and the vernacular Sacerdos parochialis, and Amanda Moss on the devotional anthology Westminster School MS 3, with its mix of orthodox and heretical items.
Part VII, 'Translation', could have been called 'Translations', as it too concentrates on individual texts: Jennifer N. Brown on the well-known collection of lives of Liegeoise saintly beguines in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 114, and its vernacular orthodoxy; Matthew Giancarlo on Peter Idley's intra-linguistic translations and adaptations of Mannyng's Handlyng Synne and Lydgate's Fall of Princes; and Laura Saetveit Miles on Richard Methley's Latin translation of the Cloud of Unknowing and the Mirror of Simple Souls as an 'enclosing' device to confine the audience to male contemplatives.
Part IX, 'Acting Holy', contains Catherine Sanok on literary saints' lives, specifically Lydgate's, and their role in defending Benedictine (and by extension English) independence from papal authority, Karen A. Winstead on women saints' lives by Capgrave and Bokenham that teach the laity the doctrine of the Trinity, and C. Annette Grise on 'cleanness of heart' and vernacular texts, in both manuscript and print, associated with the Syon nuns.
Part X, 'From Script to Print' consists of a single paper: Susan Powell on the possible influence of Arundel's Constitutions on the predominance of devotional texts among the vernacular theological and religious books printed between 1476 and 1526.
In Part XI, 'Closing Reflections and Responses', Ghosh's paper, in spite of its title, is mainly concerned with Wycliffe as a European 'public intellectual'. And finally Nicholas Watson, without whom there would have been no conference and no collection, offers an exemplary exegesis of a little-known proto-humanist English sermon by an obscure Benedictine, framing a virtuoso critique of the preceding essays, which this reader wishes had been placed at the beginning, rather than the end, of this demanding volume.
English Programme, School of Arts
University of Waikato
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2013|
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