Lollardy in Mum and the Sothsegger: A Reconsideration
A recontextualization of the evidence for ‘Lollardy’ in Mum and the Sothsegger presented by David Lawton and others, connecting the poem instead to the discourse of Anglo-Saxon homily and law that, after the Norman Conquest, was associated particularly with the maintenance of ecclesiastical endowments. ‘Insofar as the poem holds up the older bureaucratic structures recorded in’ such Anglo-Saxon discourses ‘as a preferable alternative to present injustices, it implicitly advocates a restoration of the properties and privileges to ecclesiastical institutions that they had lost over the course of the fourteenth century’ (p. 162). The social critiques of Mum in fact downplay the specifically anti-ecclesiastical bent of Lollard rhetoric. ‘As we continue to trace the influence of Anglo-Saxon literary and legal traditions on later medieval writing, and in particular on alliterative homily and poetic satire, then it will become increasingly necessary to re-evaluate Lollardy’s status as “the English Heresy” by making closer comparisons to the English (and sometimes English language) discourse of orthodoxy that preceded it by several hundred years’—an investigation in which Mum will play an important role (p. 188).
YLS, 25 (2011), 161-88.