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28 - Wycliffism and Lollardy


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2010

Miri Rubin
Queen Mary University of London
Walter Simons
Dartmouth College, New Hampshire
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The title of this chapter raises a question of fundamental relevance to the study of late-medieval ‘heresy’ in England. Commentators - both then and now - would largely be agreed in identifying the philosophical and polemical thought of John Wyclif (d. 1384), and of his immediate academic followers, as integral to the formation of a dissenting mentalité characterised by an informed, and articulate, critical engagement (in English as well as in Latin) with the received meanings and sources of religious authority. There is far less consensus as to the precise relationship of such dissent - deriving an impressive intellectual coherence from the thought of Wyclif, revealing important congruences in its implied conceptualisation of identity, and embodied in an extraordinarily diverse and voluminous textual output - to that far more diffuse, nebulous and elusive domain of what was gradually perceived and defined in terms of official ecclesiastical legislation as well as in those of a burgeoning and multifarious polemic, and lived and practised, as the ‘Lollard heresy’. This chapter will accordingly reopen the question of whether it might be meaningful to use ‘Wycliffism’ and ‘Lollardy’ - at least for purposes of analysis - as designating conceptually distinct phenomena, whatever their actual interrelationship may have been in late-medieval England.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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