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Title: A sensible reformation : the senses and liturgical life in Tudor England
Author: Milner, Matthew
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2006
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one of the most enduring assessments of the reformation has been the view that Protestantism and its worship shunned sensory experience in religion. As a result Protestant religion has been seen as fundamentally 'asensual', void of the images, relics, incense, vestments and fabric of late medieval religiosity. This appraisal has been most commonly applied to Protestant liturgy and worship. This was in contrast to pre-reformation worship which contained numerous objects and gestures making it highly sensualized. in late medieval liturgy this sensuality was the locus of spiritual action, allowing the distribution of sacred power or grace to believers in varying degrees through objects and actions. This evaluation is simplistic. In considering contemporary notions of sensation, sensory physiology and liturgical reform, a much more complex picture of the reformation in Tudor England emerges. Both Protestants and their conservative opponents shared the same basic understanding of how the senses worked physiologically. The senses were transformative powers that integrated perceivers with the world around them, literally bringing experience into the very being of the beholder. As such, they required proper governance to avoid evil objects, which caused sin and sickness, and to focus their attention on good and true objects. None were more potent than the rites of the late medieval church. Here divinity was internalized and integrated into believers through the senses. The senses, though, had their limits, and it was agreed that they were not suitable to determining beliefs or aspects of faith. As is well known, however, the reformation saw key disjunctures and clashes over the very nature of the doctrines and modes of salvation which defined these parameters. Inevitably, this resulted in a shift in how sensation functioned within religious contexts, namely liturgical life. on both sides of the religious divide the fear was that the senses would take control on their own, driving believers towards sin and concupiscence in an unfettered experience of the material world. Protestants saw this manifested in traditional piety, which was false and constructed, making the sensuality of late medieval religion highly detrimental. Conservatives, however, saw the empirical use of scripture by Protestants and the touting of scriptural authority as an improper use of the senses to determine faith. Each regarded the other as sensual. Protestants, despite their castigation of traditional piety, continued in many respects to employ its modes of interaction when encountering scripture. it took much of the sixteenth century to come to the realization that such a position was incongruous with reformed justification. The result for English notions of sensation was immense, as it became glaringly evident that Protestant doctrine and traditional sensory physiology could not exist side by side. The end of the Tudor era therefore coincided with the advent of a new era of sensing, in which the greatest revolution was that religious sensing was potentially benign to the perceiver; not saving, but not damning either.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) ; University of Warwick (UoW) ; Overseas Research Studentship (ORS)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BR Christianity ; DA Great Britain