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  • The Call to Read: Reginald Pecock’s Books and Textual Communities
  • Robyn Malo
Kirsty Campbell. The Call to Read: Reginald Pecock’s Books and Textual Communities. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010. Pp. 376. ISBN: 9780268023065. US $38.00 (paperback).

Kirsty Campbell’s book, The Call to Read: Reginald Pecock’s Books and Textual Communities, seeks to place the work of Reginald Pecock within the context of fifteenth-century religious and cultural practices and to “fill the gap,” as she puts it, “in our knowledge about Pecock’s writings” (5). Campbell opens by remarking that Pecock, like Arundel (infamous for the 1409 Constitutions), “thinks big” (8); Pecock, she wishes to argue, has a clear plan for lay and clerical education, one that might be simultaneously described as revolutionary and reformist (244–58, drawing on James Simpson’s paradigm). In Campbell’s reading, this plan eradicates lines between these two groups even as it occasionally redraws them, as in the interpretation of the Bible. Her reading is thus in step with that of other Pecock scholars (Wendy Scase, Mishtooni Bose, and Shannon Gayk) who point out that Pecock, while seeking reform, is nevertheless an advocate for orthodoxy.

In the introduction, Campbell’s overall claim is that Pecock wrote for everyone and sought to reconcile clerical hierarchies with lay education (4–5). Campbell characterizes this educational program as “the construction of a textual community” (8); to explain this term, she draws primarily from Brian Stock, whose work she discusses and cites at length (18–21, 25). Chapters 1 and 2, “Pecock’s Audience” and “The Religious Education of [End Page 237] the Laity,” discuss Pecock’s idea of audience and the laypeople his books were intended to enlighten. Chapter 1 situates Pecock within his urban environment and extrapolates ideas of audience from the way Pecock depicts and responds to this environment. While chapter 1 begins with an admission that “the historical audience is harder to reconstruct” (27), these chapters nevertheless proceed to attempt precisely that, employing Paul Strohm’s definition of “implied audience,” Iser’s “aesthetic response” (28, 55–57), and Hans Robert Jauss’s “horizon of expectations” (43–45) to suggest that Pecock’s “actual historical audience” was likely made up of Mercers (32). The evidence mostly consists of Pecock’s texts and his reference to information with which Londoners and/or Mercers might have been familiar (36, 39–41), though Campbell supplements her close readings with summaries of the historical analyses of Wendy Scase, Anne Sutton, and Vincent Gillespie. The chapter ends by attempting to reconstruct the “horizon of expectations” for London Mercers (47ff.); Campbell suggests the degree to which Pecock’s corpus broadly corresponds to the reading interests (horizon of expectations) of this group.

Chapter 2, “The Religious Education of the Laity,” situates Pecock’s works within the context of fifteenth-century religious education. The chapter makes the case for Pecock’s having expanded “mechanisms for the transmission of theology to the laity by writing books of religious instruction and by devising innovative plans for lay education”; Campbell hopes “to draw attention to the visionary nature of Pecock’s thought, which helps to show the possibility of dynamic, progressive thinking in the fifteenth century” (63). The chapter offers up insight into Pecock’s own educational program, his emphasis on the importance of books and on teaching as a chari table activity (64–65), his particular—even idiosyncratic—curriculum (66–67), his desire for a standard educational model for the laity (68), and his plan to endow universities that adopted his educational program (70). Throughout this chapter, Campbell quotes extensively from scholars (Nicholas Orme, Rita Copeland, and Anne Hudson, among others) who have investigated the question of educational practices in late medieval England, offering broad comparisons of Pecock with their assessments.

Chapter 3, “Theological Training and the Mixed Life,” presents an interesting reading of Pecock’s response to contemporary interpretations of the famous biblical narrative of Martha and Mary. Here, Campbell’s point that “Pecock’s understanding of the mixed life as a life suitable for all Christians” (86)—for Pecock, contemplative life is not “an end in itself” (89)—is important to what she later...


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