Title Background

William Langland and the Invention of Lollardy.

William Langland and the Invention of Lollardy.

In the first of two related essays (see no. 6) Cole argues that a “lollard” identity does not coalesce until at least the late 1380s and that its projection back on events and people of the early 1380s is polemical in origin. He begins his examination of L’s use of the word “loller” by presenting a fresh analysis of the Fasciculi Zizaniorum and related orthodox accounts of the origin of “lollardy,” concluding that “as late as 1386, there were no ‘lollards’ in England, only Wycliffites.” Cole thus restores a sense of distinction between these two terms, relieving “Langland of the burden of having to know about ‘lollardy’ before it exist[ed]” (43). The essay then presents an account of the various senses of the word “lollard” by orthodox and heterodox writers during the last two decades of the fourteenth century. Cole details how the first group attempts to impose this back-formation on the second group, which resists this through vigorous textual strategies; the material covered here ranges from Knighton’s Chronicle and the Eulogium to Pierce the Plowman’s Crede and Mum and the Sothsegger. Cole then offers a nuanced reading of the “lollers” in C.9 against contemporary models of religious mendicancy and vagrancy, arguing that L’s addition of new material in C.9 is a deliberate intervention in a discourse where “lollard” is a term fraught with anti-Wycliffite meanings. Cole contends that L, rather than shunning the controversies surrounding the term, offers “the longest and most thorough meditation in the vernacular on the ‘lollare’ question” (57), refusing, ultimately, to read that term through the prescriptive lens of orthodoxy.


Somerset, Havens, and Pitard, eds., Lollards and their Influence in Late-Medieval England, 37–58.

Cross Reference



Cole, Andrew.