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REVIEWS Heresies and Errors of the Friars’’ are the result of ‘‘dissident Franciscan presence in England’’ and have been hitherto ‘‘misascribed to the Lollards ’’ (p. 196). Helen Barr seeks to investigate the ‘‘Wycliffite Representation of the Third Estate’’ in an attempt to explain how the Wycliffites came to be associated with civil rebellion in the view of numerous , contemporary commentators, such as Adam Usk, despite the ‘‘declaredly orthodox, and even quietist’’ lollard views on social organization and obedience to secular authority (p. 197). She concludes that while lollard representations of the pious, simple peasant might be read as seditious, it is when Wycliffite texts ‘‘argue for the superfluity of the second [estate], or indeed its eradication’’ that they are closest to the insurgents’ polemic that would refigure the political community by consigning clerics to ‘‘the family of Cain’’ (pp. 215–16, passim). Mishtooni Bose’s essay sheds fresh light on the vernacular attempts of Bishop Reginald Pecock’s to construct an orthodox reforming theology in response to Lollardy. Her readings recover Pecock’s work as a worthy object of study and she draws attention to the multigeneric and experimental nature of engaging in vernacular theology, where ‘‘the literate practices . . . were not defined or controlled exclusively by the clergy’’ (p. 236). Somerset, Havens, and Pitard have done us a remarkable service in bringing together this volume, which demonstrates the range of exciting interests currently occupying scholars of Wycliffism. The volume should very quickly come to be seen as bookending securely the nearly two decades of research since the publication of The Premature Reformation (1988), and Derrick Pitard deserves unstinting thanks from all those interested in the study of Wycliffism for his herculean efforts in compiling the copious bibliography. Kalpen Trivedi University of Georgia Emily Steiner. Documentary Culture and the Making of Medieval English Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pp. xvi, 266. $60.00. Emily Steiner argues that the identity of medieval English literary writing was shaped by a ‘‘documentary poetics.’’ There is brief discussion of PAGE 361 361 ................. 11491$ CH13 11-01-10 14:02:56 PS STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER Bracton, Deguileville, Margery Kempe, and William Thorpe, but the book focuses chiefly on the Charters of Christ and Piers Plowman and its aftermath. Discussion of Bracton’s legal theory underpins an examination of how the intriguing Charter of Christ lyrics exploit documentary relations of absence and presence to dramatize the continual availability of the Word made flesh. Writers and illustrators were fascinated with the material form of these charters, as evidenced by the manuscript illustrations reproduced in chapter 2, but Emily Steiner’s claim that this materiality enabled medieval writers to come to a self-reflexive understanding of the intricacies of subjectivity, lyric form, and genre seemed to me to be an overreading of the function of legal metaphor. In a later chapter, Steiner shows how orthodox writers policed these lyrics by inserting an intervening clerical voice in order to make sure that the salvific claims of the Charter were mediated through ecclesiastical authority. More heterodox appropriations of these charters used them both to show the inutility of ecclesiastical documents and to bypass ecclesiastical apparatus. Given this argument, I thought that the later analysis of William Thorpe’s trial could be pushed further. To my mind, Thorpe does not simply wrest documentary culture away from the archbishop to preach a sermon, but cunningly demonstrates that material ink, parchment, and rolls stored in cupboards are vain (in both senses of the word) ‘‘mannys ordinances’’ compared to the true sentence that is inscribed in the true believer’s heart. With Piers Plowman, Steiner offers an intriguingly bold and original reading of the Pardon scene, arguing that the Pardon should be seen as a ‘‘chirographum dei,’’ a charter that promises a new contract for the individual soul. Piers’s tearing of the pardon—in two—stresses Steiner, is not a crisis point, but an affirmation of the document through the process of indenture. Piers tears the document in order to witness and confirm its terms. This argument is heavily influenced by Augustine’s treatment of the ‘‘chirographum dei’’ in his commentary on Psalm 144. There are serious problems with this...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 361-364
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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