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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER 161). The chapter ends with a look at the good-humored satire of commerce in London Lickpenny. Painstakingly alive to the nuances of the texts she describes, Farber admirably realizes the difficult goal she sets out to attain in her book: to describe accurately how writers understood trade during a time when the category of the ‘‘economic’’ was nonexistent. This sensible, jargonfree , and evenhanded study makes an impressive contribution both to literary criticism and to the history of ideas. Kathy Lavezzo University of Iowa Judy Ann Ford. John Mirk’s ‘‘Festial’’: Orthodoxy, Lollardy, and the Common People in Fourteenth-Century England. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2006. Pp. 168. $80.00. John Mirk’s Festial, a collection of vernacular sermons probably written between 1382 and 1390, was a ‘‘popular’’ text in both senses of the word. It seems to have been designed for the rural, ‘‘lewde’’ majority rather than members of the urban, educated elite; moreover, as studies by Alan Fletcher, Susan Powell, and H. L. Spencer have shown, the Festial was one of the most widely copied and printed English sermon compilations during the latter half of the fifteenth century. Nevertheless , the Festial has met with a rather subdued response from contemporary scholars. As the first full-length interpretation of the work, Ford’s analysis provides a much-needed introduction to the complexity of the Festial and its contributions to medieval debates concerning clerical power, class relations, and religious narrative itself. Scholars have long agreed that Mirk, an Augustinian canon writing for a lay audience in Shropshire, positions himself firmly on the orthodox side of late medieval religious controversies. Ford persuasively argues that although Mirk refers to Lollards only twice in his text, the Festial as a whole attempts to provide lay people with an alternative to heresy. A crucial dimension of Ford’s book, however, involves reading the Festial in light of other developments of the late fourteenth century, including the rebellion of 1381 and the general evolution of literate culture in England during the period. Emphasizing the exclusionary effects of this PAGE 492 492 ................. 16596$ CH13 11-01-10 14:08:24 PS REVIEWS latter factor, Ford regards Lollardy as a relatively elitist movement. Given the continued prevalence of illiteracy in late medieval England, her first chapter contends, ‘‘cultural movements associated with literacy can hardly be labeled ‘popular’ ’’ (p. 29). Because the Festial resists ‘‘bibliocentric’’ (p. 113) approaches to Christianity, it may have been perceived as ‘‘attractively inclusive’’ (p. 114) by uneducated audiences. According to Ford’s second chapter, Mirk also affirms the culture of the illiterate laity by recounting saints’ lives and miracle stories. Even as Mirk upholds the indispensability of clerical mediation in lay people’s lives, he empowers his audience by telling stories in which the sacraments take place ‘‘off stage’’ (p. 40), and in which ordinary men and women often directly encounter the divine. Ford perceives a similar dynamic within Mirk’s discussions of social class, the subject of her third chapter. Although Mirk advocates submission to temporal authority in this world, his frequent criticisms of higher learning and empathetic discussions of the poor uphold a positive view of lay people’s abilities. Ford’s fourth chapter highlights Mirk’s treatment of biblical material; once again, she feels that Mirk does so in a manner that privileges nonliterate forms of spirituality. By comparing Mirk’s treatment of the evangelists to that of his main source, Jacobus de Voragine’s Legenda Aurea, Ford demonstrates that Mirk stresses the Gospel-writers’ talents as preachers, saints, and recipients of divine inspiration, rather than as writers. By doing so, Ford argues, Mirk implicitly allows for ‘‘lay agency’’ even among those Christians who cannot read. A brief concluding chapter reiterates this point. Instead of responding to either Lollardy or rebellion through ‘‘heavy-handed condemnation,’’ Mirk offers his audience ‘‘compelling images of lay agency functioning within established orthodoxy’’ (p. 150). Ford’s approach to the Festial has many strengths. She keeps a close eye on the educational, social, and cultural differences separating members of the laity from one another, and maintains a healthy skepticism toward any medieval writer’s claim to represent the true...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 492-495
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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