Europe after Wyclif
Collecting papers originally delivered at a conference of the same name hosted at Fordham University in collaboration with McGill University, Europe after Wyclif approaches late-medieval religious controversy on a pan-European scale, paying particular attention to developments in England, Bohemia, and at the general councils of the fifteenth century. Controversies such as those that developed in England and Bohemia have received ample attention for decades, and recent scholarship has introduced valuable perspectives regarding our knowledge of these aspects of European religion, literature, history, and thought. Yet until recently, scholars working on these controversies have tended to work in regional isolation, a practice that has given rise to the impression that the controversies were more or less insular, their significance measured in terms of their local or regional influence.
The inclusion of Wyclif in the title anchors this volume in reformist developments that took shape in fourteenth-century England but then quickly resonated further afield. Specifically, the volume explores the intersections where Wycliffism and English religious controversy met with broader social, cultural, historical, literary, and material issues of European significance. Indeed, regional developments and conflicts, while very much products of their own environments and of local significance, were often inseparable from cultural developments that were experienced internationally.
The volume’s twelve contributors approach these intersections through examinations of textual transmission and compilation, polemical rhetoric and the fifteenth-century general councils, and philosophical and theological interchange, among other emphases. The collection begins, after an introduction, with an extended contribution by John Van Engen, who delivered the opening keynote address at the conference. Van Engen takes both a long and a broad view of late medieval religious controversy. Insisting that studies must be attuned to local peculiarities (for ‘all religion is local’) as well as to international dynamics, Van Engen provides a general overview that sets the tone for the volume as a whole.
Van Engen’s paper is followed by two studies, by Kathleen E. Kennedy and Pavlina Cermanova, concerning the use and circulation of texts during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Each seeks to challenge the insular assumptions that have often led scholars to study manuscripts and other evidence from individual language groups in isolation from one another. Ota Pavlíček’s contribution, ‘Wyclif’s Early Reception in Bohemia and his Influence on the Thought of Jerome
of Prague’, provides a bridge between the textual studies that precede it and the philosophical ones that follow. Following Pavlíček’s essay, the collection features two contributions that, broadly speaking, are exercises in intellectual history. Like Pavlíček, Luigi Campi seeks in his essay ‘Determinism between Oxford and Prague: The Late Wyclif’s Retractationes and Their Defense Ascribed to Peter Payne’ to consider how a certain set of Wyclif’s ideas were received and interpreted by the masters of Prague. Fiona Somerset’s ‘Wyclif, Canon Law, and the Politics of Consent’ does likewise, examining the ways in which Wyclif’s ideas about social consent (in particular, consent to sin) were adapted by some of his successors, including Payne, a Wycliffite master who moved from Oxford to Prague.
Interested in the institutional church’s various responses to ideas labeled Wycliffite and/or Hussite are two essays, Ian Christopher Levy’s ‘Interpreting the Intention of Christ: Roman Responses to Bohemian Utraquism from Constance to Basel’ and Pavel Soukup’s ‘The Waning of the “Wycliffites”: Giving Names to Hussite Heresy’. The collection’s final four essays, by Mishtooni Bose, Jennifer Illig, Louisa Foroughi, and Mary Raschko, examine aspects of intellectual and devotional life in fifteenth-century England. They re-assess what scholars believe we know about, respectively, affective versus intellective religious experience, the purpose and use of the English Wycliffite Sermons, the appearance of potentially heterodox material in commonplace books, and vernacular lives of Christ.
Europe after Wyclif seeks to show what may be possible as scholars broaden the set of lenses through which we look at the religious controversies of the later Middle Ages. It aims to reveal what more can be seen when specialists step back to consider as a whole the bustling, complex stage on which their subjects moved.