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4 - William Thorpe and the historical record

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Rita Copeland
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
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Summary

In contrast to the forward historical directions that Wyche's testimony takes as the first point of visibility through a long career, the trajectory of William Thorpe's narrative is backward into the past, to an earlier, idealized moment in the Wycliffite movement, giving Thorpe a historicity that he does not otherwise possess. Thorpe comes into being as a historically knowable subject through the literary mechanics of violent representation, the narrative drama of his adversarial encounter with Arundel; yet his text must also disavow its own literary character in favor of its claims to historicity.

Outside the text Thorpe's is a shadowy life. He has been tentatively identified with a priest named William Thorpe instituted to the vicarage of Marske, Cleveland (York diocese), in March of 1395, which would locate him in the north of England and thus confirm Arundel's statement at the opening of the “Testimony”: “William, I knowe wel that thou hast this twenti wyntir and more traueilid aboute bisili in the north lond and in othir diuerse contrees of Ynglond, sowynge aboute fals doctryne.” But for the interview with Arundel on 7 August 1407 at Saltwood Castle in Kent, there is no external evidence. The text states that the interrogation followed on his arrest in April in Shrewsbury for preaching Lollard doctrines in Saint Chad's Church; but beyond the text there is no record of this arrest, or of the outcome of the interview, or even of what became of Thorpe.

Type
Chapter
Information
Pedagogy, Intellectuals, and Dissent in the Later Middle Ages
Lollardy and Ideas of Learning
, pp. 191 - 219
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2001

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