Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 July 2009
Disputation and rhetoric were at the core of the Renaissance university curriculum. Formal training in, and fostering of, these skills was a major part of the education of the higher clergy. One consequence of the Reformation and the subsequent schism was that the emphasis of this training shifted from rhetoric to eristic. This development operated in a number of ways. At a political level, Cardinal William Allen and his associates at Douai aimed to replicate the collegiate world of Oxford as religious tests forced them and other recusants out of the English university system. Eristic literature therefore provided an initial manifesto for the alternative value-system of the exiles and their adherents. At a more popular level, this body of writing served to give coherent expression to the novel political, social and religious realities experienced by the laity. And as these realities shifted and developed over time, so too did the form and content of the texts themselves.
This chapter looks at a peculiarly Irish aspect of a major theme in controversial disputation and writing. While the action took place in Ireland and was shaped, to an extent, by very local concerns and conditions, the substantive core of the dispute was at the heart of prevailing theological dispute. All of the significant participants, Catholic and Protestant, shared a common formal education, and the form, content and choreography of the disputation reflects this bond.