Image Text, Text, and Religious Reform in Fifteenth-Century England
Image, Text, and Religious Reform explores how fifteenth-century writers used literary means to explore the uses and abuses of the devotional image and to instruct lay readers in appropriate ways to read and respond to religious images. The writers considered offer sophisticated explanations of visual culture and image use: Lollard authors attempt to remedy the ‘false’ representation of contemporary images with imaginative texts; Thomas Hoccleve interrogates the epistemological certainty of vision and visionary discourses; John Lydgate uses poetry to teach his readers how to interpret images; John Capgrave emphasizes the importance of historicizing image-use; and Reginald Pecock advocates the importance of reason in interpreting both visual and textual signs. The first chapter, ‘Lollard Iconographies’, draws on a wide range of Lollard alliterative verse and prose to offer a re-evaluation of Lollard aesthetics. Although one of the most consistent polemical features of Lollard texts is their critique of devotional images, Gayk argues that many Lollards cared immensely about form, both literary and material, precisely because they understood it to be bound up with larger ethical issues. Ultimately, the rhetorical and generic forms that Lollard writers deploy to stage debates on the danger of religious images reveal their simultaneous participation in and reformist ambivalence about the literary and visual modes of their contemporaries. (SG)
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