After Wyclif

Overview

This dissertation investigates the changing meanings of biblical writing and scriptural truth in the work of John Wyclif and his successors, English heretics known as the Lollards. Criticism has long held that Wyclif's emphasis on the authority of scripture established the habits of thought and interpretation specific to a new kind of Christian dissent in late medieval England. I demonstrate, however, that Wyclif's scriptural agenda fostered deeply ambivalent theorizations of the Bible's material and historical ...
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Overview

This dissertation investigates the changing meanings of biblical writing and scriptural truth in the work of John Wyclif and his successors, English heretics known as the Lollards. Criticism has long held that Wyclif's emphasis on the authority of scripture established the habits of thought and interpretation specific to a new kind of Christian dissent in late medieval England. I demonstrate, however, that Wyclif's scriptural agenda fostered deeply ambivalent theorizations of the Bible's material and historical status at precisely the moment when Lollards were most invested in constructing a canon of vernacular religious writing. This becomes apparent when Wyclif's Latin theological works are juxtaposed with the English translations and commentaries of Lollardy's adherents, and when both archives are placed in dialogue with a broad range of hermeneutic theory. The first chapter orients the study around some key concerns: academic study of the Bible in fourteenth-century Oxford, the debate over universals, and Wyclif's concept of scripture as a divine law residing beyond the mediation of human language and written books. The remaining chapters elucidate how Lollards grappled with the implications of Wyclif's biblicism from approximately 1380 to 1450. Chapter two argues that Wyclif's commitment to a scriptural meaning dislodged from human systems of grammar and signification presented a challenge to Lollard translators of the first English Bible, who envisioned language---and more specifically the vernacular---as a site of cultural production. Chapter three, which engages the long English sermon cycle, shows how Wyclif's suppositions about the disembodied and indelible truth of scripture generated uncertainties about the medium of gospel preaching, the relationship of the human voice to the sacred text it embodies and performs, and the authority of the Bible as a written document. Moving into the fifteenth century, the final two chapters treat an array of biblical material (interpolated versions of Richard Rolle's English Psalter, William Thorpe's Testimony, and select vernacular commentaries) in order to trace the emergence of a hermeneutic sensibility grounded in affective and inferential responses to sacred texts, especially under the aegis of the literal sense.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781243702609
  • Publisher: BiblioLabsII
  • Publication date: 9/8/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 9.69 (h) x 0.64 (d)

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