A Companion to Lollardy
(Addendum to the 2016 annual bibliography)
It has been more than twenty-five years since the publication of Anne Hudson’s magisterial work The Premature Reformation catapulted the study of lollardy into a central place in research on the literature and history of late medieval England. Much has changed in the study of lollardy since the appearance of Hudson’s groundbreaking study, yet many of her questions and approaches remain entrenched among the generation of scholars who have succeeded her. At the same time, from other quarters has been evinced increasing skepticism about the significance of lollardy, in particular about its relationship to King Henry VIII’s reformation. Hornbeck’s Companion attempts to sum up what we know about lollardy and what have been its fortunes in the hands of its twentieth- and twenty-first-century chroniclers. In describing significant trends in the study of lollardy, it also seeks to provide enough background information about the individuals, practices, texts, and beliefs that medieval and modern people have categorized as lollard to introduce new readers to the field. Its central conviction is that the ways in which scholars and polemicists, literary critics and ecclesiastics have defined lollardy and evaluated its significance are interesting in and of themselves, and that the disparate treatments of John Wyclif and his putative followers that have emerged over the past five centuries can illustrate developments in the study of the religion, culture, and society of late medieval England.
Unlike most other companion volumes (both in the Brill Companions to the Christian Tradition series and in counterpart series from other publishers), this is not an edited collection of essays but rather an attempt to treat lollardy holistically and, for the most part, in a single voice. Complementing Hornbeck’s work as a church historian, literary specialists Mishtooni Bose and Fiona Somerset each contribute chapters that address, respectively, opposition to Wyclif and lollardy and lollard literary productions.
Approaching its subject topically rather than chronologically, the Companion begins with an introduction tracing the evolving terminology that scholars have used in studying heresy generally and lollardy in particular. The chapters that follow hold up for examination many of the latent theological and historiographical claims that are implicit in traditional accounts of Wyclif and his associates. Chapter 2 treats the individuals whose names are most closely linked with Wyclif and lollardy. The Companion then turns to consider lollard religious practices (Chapter 3), lollard writings (Chapter 4), and lollard beliefs (Chapter 5). The placement of practices before writings and beliefs may be surprising to some readers, but in keeping with the modern theological discipline of practical theology, it reflects the ways in which practices shape beliefs at least as often as the other way around. The Companion‘s remaining three chapters chronicle the institutional church’s response to lollardy, considering in turn the fate of lollards, their texts, and their beliefs in the years leading up to the English Reformation. They profile the academic and ecclesial opponents of lollardy (Chapter 6); examine when, how, and by whom lollards were tried in church courts (Chapter 7); and study the afterlife of lollardy in a variety of contexts, both English and continental (Chapter 8). A brief conclusion attempts to sum up the overarching historiographical questions posed throughout the book.