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Both in its own time and subsequently, the Lollard or Wycliffite movement of religious reform in late medieval England has been described in predominantly negative terms: historians, theologians, and literary scholars have emphasized the ways in which Wycliffites and their supporters rejected the doctrines of the institutional church, argued against such practices and structures as permanent endowment and the papacy, and constructed themselves as a remnant of true Christians persecuted by Antichrist. Luckily, however, there are other sources of evidence for the spiritual and devotional practices of Wycliffites and their communities. On the one hand, some particularly attentive bishops preserved in their registers many otherwise inaccessible details of the ways in which heresy defendants practiced their faith. On the other hand, recent scholarship has made it indisputable that any serious study of this late medieval heresy must engage critically and extensively with the texts written by those condemned as heretics.
This new volume in the Classics of Western Spirituality series is a collection of modern English translations of Wycliffite texts and heresy trial records which disclose that, far from practicing a wholly negative Christianity, Wycliffites were as keenly interested in the spiritual life as many of their contemporaries. While Wycliffite spirituality, like that of many a persecuted Christian group, placed high value on the confession of faith and readiness to endure persecution or even martyrdom, they did not think of themselves as heretics who had rejected Christianity. Indeed, they engaged closely with contemporary pastoral and spiritual movements, and their attempts to provide an alternative spirituality were better developed and more coherent than scholarship has yet acknowledged.
This collection remedies the serious need for an accessible and affordable volume of primary source materials in modern English on Wyclif and Wycliffism.
The mainstream historiography of Wycliffism has to a very great extent ignored the positive spirituality that Wycliffite dissenters associated with their faith. This will be the first collection to showcase Wycliffites spiritual writings.
This collection includes modern English translations of some materials presently available only in manuscripts in British libraries.
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Patrick Hornbeck is assistant professor of theology at Fordham University. He completed his doctorate on the doctrines of the Wycliffite or Lollard dissenters of late-medieval England, at the Oxford University, where he was Senior Scholar of Christ Church
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