The Claims of Poverty
Literature, Culture, and Ideology in Late Medieval England
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Notre Dame Press
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In 1206 the man who would become St. Francis of Assisi was brought before the bishop to face punishment for his increasingly disruptive behavior. The stories of the saint’s life famously record how Francis’s father, a prosperous cloth merchant, sought legal recourse in response to his son’s actions...
1. Forms of Need: The Allegorical Representation of Poverty in Piers Plowman
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The parable of Dives and Lazarus in Luke 16 offers a haunting story about the failures of charity, the invisibility of the poor, and the divisions that fracture community. Describing how the rich man ignores the needy beggar at his gate, the gospel passage goes on to recount how Dives is damned while Lazarus finds respite enfolded in Abraham’s bosom...
2. Poverty Exposed: The Evangelical and Epistemological Ideal of Pierce the Ploughman’s Crede
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The Wycliffite poem Pierce the Plougman’s Crede offers an enthusiastic response to the calls for ecclesiastical reform articulated in Piers Plowman. Written by an anonymous author sometime after 1393, the Crede self-consciously follows in the footsteps of Langland’s work, condemning...
3. “Clamerous” Beggars and “Nedi” Knights: Poverty and Wycliffite Reform
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Posted on the doors of Parliament in 1395, the above statement proposing reforms for the institutional church begins with a striking declaration of authorial identity: “We pore men.”1 The proponents of what has come to be known as the Twelve Conclusions of the Lollards claim a position of authority...
4. The Costs of Sanctity: Margery Kempe and the Franciscan Imaginary
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Margery Kempe is perhaps best known for her seemingly eccentric spirituality, which entails extreme episodes of crying. Yet Kempe’s religious devotion is distinctive not simply for its emotional intensity. As she undertakes her own imitation of Christ in the world, Kempe forges a path...
5. Communal Identities: Performing Poverty, Charity, and Labor in York’s Corpus Christi Theater
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York’s Corpus Christi drama, as it re-creates the whole of biblical history, explores theological material central to the late medieval debates about poverty, charity, and labor. Yet the York cycle is especially intriguing not simply for its discussion of such issues, but because the plays are immediately implicated in these issues...
Epilogue: Nickel and Dimed: Poverty Polemic Medieval and Modern
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In late medieval England, writers interrogated the meaning of poverty with great urgency. In many ways, their dynamic and intricate writings reveal how increasing anxiety about poverty was a matter of historical specificity marked by a radically different post-plague economy, a flourishing ideology...
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Page Count: 400
Publication Year: 2010