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The Call to Read

Reginald Pecock's Books and Textual Communities

Kirsty Campbell

Publication Year: 2010

The Call to Read is the first full-length study to situate the surviving oeuvre of Reginald Pecock in the context of current scholarship on English vernacular theology of the late medieval period. Kirsty Campbell examines the important and innovative contribution Pecock made to late medieval debates about the roles of the Bible, the Church, the faculty of reason, and practices of devotion in fostering a vital, productive, and stable Christian community. Campbell argues that Pecock’s fascinating attempt to educate the laity is more than an effort to supply religious reading material: it is an attempt to establish and unite a community of readers around his books, to influence and thus change the ways they understand their faith, the world, and their place in it. The aim of Pecock’s educational project is to harness the power of texts to effect religious change. Combining traditional approaches with innovative thinking on moral philosophy, devotional exercises, and theological doctrine, Pecock’s works of religious instruction are his attempt to reform a Christian community threatened by heresy through reshaping meaningful Christian practices and forms of belief. Campbell’s book will be of interest to scholars and students of medieval literature and culture, especially those interested in fifteenth-century religious history and culture.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page

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pp. ix-x

I would like to express my gratitude to a number of institutions and individuals who supported me as I wrote this book. The project took root during my doctoral studies at the University of Toronto's Centre for Medieval Studies. It began as a dissertation under the supervision of Suzanne Akbari, an exceedingly generous teacher, inspiring mentor, ...


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pp. xi-xii

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Introduction: Reginald Pecock's Books and His Textual Community

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pp. 1-26

Fifteenth-century England was a time of intense debate and speculation about the nature of the religious life, the role of the church in Christian society, and the faith of the ordinary Christian. Questions once voiced and discussed by churchmen in places beyond the reach of ordinary lay folk were asked in vernacular writings that circulated ...

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1. Pecock’s Audience

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pp. 27-60

This chapter considers the question of Pecock’s audience. As Paul Strohm notes in his work on Chaucer’s audience, there is general acceptance within literary studies that “a literary work achieves its meaning in the interaction between a text on the one hand and an audience on the other” but that any discussion of audience must first ...

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2. The Religious Education of the Laity

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pp. 61-84

In late medieval England, the production of religious literature in the vernacular constitutes a massive transfer of clergie—of knowledge and learning—from the clergy to the laity. Most scholars agree that this process started with Archbishop Pecham’s innovative and groundbreaking program, in 1281, of mass education requiring priests to ...

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3. Theological Training and the Mixed Life

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pp. 85-109

In the previous chapter, I suggested that Reginald Pecock’s vision oflay education for “alle cristen peple” (Reule, 13) constitutes both amassive transfer of clergie—of knowledge and learning—to a lay audienceand an innovative approach to the religious instruction of the laity. Pecock’s religious writings are part of the “extensive and consistent ...

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4. Ritual Reading and Meditative Reading

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pp. 110-147

In the last chapter, I discussed Pecock’s sense of the way contemplation, as he defines it, is at the core of every moral action and is therefore the foundation for active life in the world. In this chapter, I examine some of the sophisticated and demanding spiritual practices—namely, forms of “preising and of preiyng devoutely” (Donet, 202)—that ...

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5. The Book of Reason

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pp. 148-180

I suggested in the previous chapter that Pecock’s books provide a source for devotional practices, an abundant resource of truths upon which an individual reader can meditate in a way that engenders love and desire for God. Studying the way that Pecock’s books develop spiritual practices of prayer and meditation among the laity brings me ...

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6. The Bible

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pp. 181-216

Throughout his entire corpus, Pecock makes it clear that much of his labor is intended as a corrective to the Lollard textual community. He identifies two major problems with the way that these members of the “lay partie” approach and use the Bible (Reule, 19). The first problem is their understanding of the nature of the Bible as the singular source...

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7. Lay-Cleric Relations in the Textual Community

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pp. 217-243

As we saw in the last chapter, Pecock reinforces the authority of the learned clergy in a variety of ways, attempting to convince lay readers to “fele how necessarie and nedeful it is to hem, that substancial clerkis be in scole of logic, philsophie, and divinte.” He stresses that his lay readers are to be “enfoormed and directed by tho clerkis,” who ...

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Conclusion: Understanding Pecock's Cultural Practice

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pp. 244-258

In discussions about the production of vernacular theology after 1409, Reginald Pecock often appears as a man who was ahead of his times, a “tolerant man in an age of intolerance” whose rational, nonviolent response to heresy set him apart from other representatives of the institutional church who sought to uproot heterodox belief with censorship, ...

Appendix A. Other Books Possibly in Pecock’s Oeuvre

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pp. 259-260

Appendix B. Pecock’s Four Tables of Thirty-One Virtues

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pp. 261-262


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pp. 263-283


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pp. 284-305


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pp. 306-310

E-ISBN-13: 9780268076917
E-ISBN-10: 026807691X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268023065
Print-ISBN-10: 0268023069

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2010