The Antifraternal Tradition in Medieval Literature

The Antifraternal Tradition in Medieval Literature

Perm R. Szittya
Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 334
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  • Book Info
    The Antifraternal Tradition in Medieval Literature
    Book Description:

    This book is a history of a medieval literary tradition that grew out of opposition to the mendicant fraternal orders. Penn R. Szittya argues that the widespread attacks on the friars in late medieval poetry, especially in Ricardian England, drew on an established tradition that originated in the polemical theology, eschatology, and Biblical exegesis of the friars' ecclesiastical enemies--secular clergy, theologians, polemicists, archbishops, canon lawyers, monks, and rival orders.

    Originally published in 1986.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5416-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION The Puzzle of Sire Penetrans Domos
    (pp. 3-10)

    In the apocalyptic ending ofPiers Plowman,as the forces of Antichrist muster, the door of the church is suddenly darkened by a friar with an enigmatic name: SirePenetrans Domos. Penetrans Domosis not just a name but a text. It is a snatch from an eschatological passage in the New Testament, where St. Paul warns Timothy about the dangers in the last days of the world:

    But know this, that in the last days dangerous times will come. Men will be lovers of self, covetous, haughty, proud . . . having a semblance indeed of piety, but disowning...

  6. ONE William of St. Amour and the Perils of the Last Times
    (pp. 11-61)

    On a wintry dawn in March 1253, not far from where the new towers of Notre Dame rose above the streets of Paris, four students from the University of Paris were set upon—without provocation, say the university documents—by a patrol of the city’s constabulary. One student was killed and the others thrown into prison, where in the course of an offical interrogation, their bones were broken. Police brutality had not been unknown before, but under this extreme provocation, the university felt compelled to resort to its only weapon, an economic one, for protecting its students: it called a...

  7. TWO William of St. Amour in England: Circulation and Dissemination
    (pp. 62-122)

    In the late winter of 1358–59, in a remote area in the southwest of England, a strange letter went out from the local bishop to all corners of his diocese. John Grandisson, bishop of Exeter, instructed all the diocesan officials in Devon and Cornwall to warn the people of dangers arising from certain hypocrites.¹ Christ, the letter says, foreknew all, and could see that the sheep of his pasture would be attacked by future wolves and seducers. He therefore prophetically warned his apostles and disciples, and their successors, to whom the care of the ecclesiastical sheepfold was committed: “Videte...

  8. THREE The Antifraternal Ecclesiology of Archbishop Richard FitzRalph
    (pp. 123-151)

    The most notorious opponent of the friars in the fourteenth century—a man often linked in manuscripts with the Parisian theologian of a century earlier—was Archbishop Richard FitzRalph. He was, like William of St. Amour, a member of the secular clergy, a master of theology, prominent at one time in his career at one of the most respected universities in Europe, and at the end of his life the leader of the secular party against the friars. But there the similarities end. The career of William of St. Amour was marked by bitter opposition to the pope, who deprived...

  9. FOUR John Wyclif and the Nominalist Seekers of Signs
    (pp. 152-182)

    In 1379, an Augustinian friar at Cambridge named Adam Stockton wrote a note in the margin of a manuscript he owned: “Hec venerabilis doctor magister Iohannes Wyclyf in quadam sua determinacione anno domini 1379” (This is by the venerable teacher, Master John Wyclif, in a certaindeterminatioof 1379). Less than two years later, he scratched outvenerabilis doctorand wrote in its steadexecrabilis seductor.¹ Stockton’s change of heart reflects a sudden and dramatic reversal in the relationship of the Oxford theologian, John Wyclif, with the fraternal orders, and so marks the beginning of the last great phase of...

  10. FIVE The English Poetic Tradition
    (pp. 183-230)

    The clamor in England between Wyclif and the friars produced at least one strange side effect: poetry. After the condemnations of Wyclif by the “Earthquake Council” of 1382, a Wycliffite partisan published a Latin poem in forty-nine stanzas, denouncing the council and the fraternal theologians who controlled it.¹ The anonymous author, though metrically competent, was plainly less interested in art than in denunciation, and it is only his graceless meter and the thumping O and I refrain that allows him, barely, the title of poet. What he was really writing was polemic dressed up in verse. This was neither the...

  11. SIX Chaucer and Antifraternal Exegesis: The False Apostle of the Summoner’s Tale
    (pp. 231-246)

    Chaucer’s most antifraternal tale is appropriately told by a scrofulous hireling of the secular clergy, the Summoner. It is a tale dominated by the Summoner’s anal humor, from the prologue, where the friars take their eternal rest in the devil’s rectum, to the malodorous conundrum and the cartwheel at the end. But behind this exuberance, there lies a learned and ultimately serious pattern of allusion to the antifraternal tradition, which contributes to our sense that behind his comic mask, Chaucer, like other Ricardian poets, was preoccupied with decline and crisis in fourteenth-century society.

    A characteristic mark of Chaucerian comedy elsewhere...

  12. SEVEN The Friars and the End of Piers Plowman
    (pp. 247-288)

    The friars’ prominence in the action of theBversion ofPiers Plowmanis conspicuous. They are mentioned more often and at more length than any other ecclesiastical type. They appear at structurally and psychologically significant points throughout the poem: the beginning, the end, the beginning of the inward journey (passus VIII), Will’s dream within a dream of the Land of Longing (XI), and the turning point at the Banquet of Conscience (XIII). They dominate the last major episode as well as the last speech of the final passus. They alone appear to both the sleeping and the waking Will....

  13. Appendix A: Sources of Omne Bonum, Article “Fratres”
    (pp. 291-295)
  14. Appendix B: Sources of Bodl. 784, Part 3 and Collation with Omne Bonum, Article “Fratres”
    (pp. 296-300)
    (pp. 301-312)
    (pp. 313-314)
    (pp. 315-316)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 317-317)