Lollards and Their Influence in Late Medieval England

By Fiona Somerset; Jill C. Havens et al. | Go to book overview

Here, There, and Everywhere?
Wycliffite Conceptions of the Eucharist and
Chaucer's "Other" Lollard Joke

Fiona Somerset

The debate over the Eucharist in the Upland Series has long been demanding proper explanation and reappraisal. 1 Working on his own, before the explosion in the study of Wycliffite texts that began soon after he finished, Heyworth could make little of the exchange, as he readily admits:

... it is difficult not to side with [the antiWycliffite friar] Daw against his interlocutors. Upland (390―3) ascribes to the friars the Wyclifian heresy that after consecration the bread remains both in accidents and substance. As Daw complains (841) Þou drawist a Þorn out of Þin hele & puttist it in oure; he goes on to restate the orthodox doctrine (844―62). Of [Upland's Rejoinder]'s reply I can make nothing; but I feel safe in assuming confusion of thought rather than corruption of the text. (Heyworth, 171)

Still, although opaque to the uninitiated in their allusiveness, the Upland arguments are anything but confused. By now it has become much easier to investigate the Eucharistic debate hotly contested in both Latin and English, in Oxford and beyond, from the early 1380s onward. We can arrive at a much clearer idea of what various Wycliffites argued, what various antiWycliffite contenders argued back, and what each claimed about the other. 2 Rather than ascribing Wycliffite ideas to the Friar, as I will show, the Wycliffite writers of Upland and Upland's Rejoinder allude

____________________
1
The Middle English parts of the Upland Series (for a full list of its components, see below, 128) were first published together as P.L. Heyworth (159); this edition predates most of the work on vernacular Wycliffite texts that has been produced since the late sixties, and is therefore unable to draw upon its new discoveries and insights. A subsequent edition for students (in Dean [132, 115― 226]) intelligently restores some of Heyworth's unnecessary emendations, but does not substantially improve on his notes, while for reasons of space it omits some of Heyworth's justifications for omissions. I will use Heyworth's edition, citing each work in the Upland Series by title and line number and Heyworth's notes by page number.
2
The views I will attribute to Wycliffites here represent one dominant strand of argument in the movement, found (with some small variations) in Wyclif's Latin works and in a variety of Latin and Middle English works by Wycliffites, and refuted in antiWycliffite works. I do not mean to suggest, however, that this argument represents the sum of Wycliffite thinking on the Eucharist: David Aers's article in the present volume shows how one Wycliffite's Eucharistic views avoid this dominant strand of argument, for example.

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