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Title: Responses to Lollardy and the evolution of English religion, c.1400-1450
Author: Berry, Simon
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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The study of the religious controversies associated with the legacy of John Wyclif has seen extensive expansion in recent years. Lollard religion and spirituality have been studied both at the textual and at the sociological level. This thesis will approach the period instead from a theological and intellectual-historical perspective, focusing on theological texts created in response to Lollardy. It will detail how attempts to defend and preserve 'orthodoxy' led to new forms of diversity and tension in English religion over time. It will suggest, however, that certain characteristic theological positions and strategies were constants even through these diverse voices. The first chapter examines a set of homiletic and related materials from around the first decade of the century. It tracks common interests in authority, ecclesiology, virtue, and scripture alongside divergent priorities for the church, and varied strategies for opposing Lollardy. The second chapter surveys Nicholas Love's devotional translation, The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ, arguing that the work is shaped by a similar agenda, which again emerges in discussions of theological authority. Chapter 3 addresses Thomas Netter's 1427 Doctrinale, demonstrating that this too is influenced by a polemic and apologetic agenda in its systematic theology. The fourth chapter shows similar preoccupations later on in the very different theology of Reginald Pecock, whose own stated purpose of 'repressing' Lollard error led him into conflict with his emphasis on reason and accessibility in religion. In the fifth chapter this is balanced with the figure of Thomas Gascoigne who demonstrates the continued survival of many of the theological and devotional concerns of Lollardy in the absence of an anti-Lollard agenda. The conclusion draws together the findings of this study, noting the rich diversity of responses to Lollardy in form and genre, but also the persistence of certain common preoccupations and strategies. Discussions of the nature of virtue and the right locus of authority were deployed not only to debate particular Lollard critiques of the church, but to construct theologies with little or no room for such critiques in principle, and assert an institutional church unaccountable to independent external criticism. Not only the conclusions, therefore, but the reforming attitude and authority sources of Lollardy were consistently excluded. The defining feature of Lollardy's influence lay in the varied, but consistent, re-incarnation of this recurring theological agenda.
Supervisor: MacCulloch, Diarmaid ; Ghosh, Kantik Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Theology ; Ecclesiastical History