Defenders and Critics of Franciscan Life: Essays in Honor of John V. Fleming

By Hellmann, J. A. Wayne | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2011 | Go to article overview

Defenders and Critics of Franciscan Life: Essays in Honor of John V. Fleming


Hellmann, J. A. Wayne, The Catholic Historical Review


Defenders and Critics of Franciscan Life: Essays in Honor of John V. Fleming. Edited by Michael F. Cusato and Guy Geltner. [The Medieval Franciscans, Vol. 6.] (Leiden: Brill. 2009. Pp. xv, 255. $147.00. ISBN 978-9004-17630-0.)

This volume consists of thirteen essays, which are divided into four sections: Franciscan Exegesis; Students and Scholars; Franciscan Critics and Critics of the Franciscans; and Franciscan Legacies.The essays were presented at an April 2004 conference held at Princeton University in honor of John V. Fleming and revisited his classic study, An Introduction to the Franciscan Literature of the Middle Ages (Chicago, 1977). Thus, the breadth of the material treated extends beyond the somewhat limiting title of the volume. This is duly noted in the editors' introduction: The essays "engage in a multifaceted exploration of the Franciscans' impact on medieval life and culture" (p. ix).

In the exegesis section (pp. 9-54) there are two essays: "Francis of Assisi, Deacon?: An Examination of the Claims of the Earliest Franciscan Sources 1229-1235" by Michael F. Cusato, and "Tobit's Dog and the Dangers of Literalism: William Woodford OEM. as Critic ofWycliffite Exegesis" by Alastair Minnis. The first focuses on a text by Thomas of Celano and the second on complicated biblical hermeneutic. The first moves forward discussion on whether or not St. Francis of Assisi was a deacon. The second examines John Wyclif's thought on biblical literalism.

The second section (pp. 55-104) is more focused. The first essay, "Franciscan Learning: University Education and Biblical Exegesis," by William J. Courtenay demonstrates how the mendicant orders "carried the principal weight of biblical instruction" (p. 59)The second essay,"Using, Not OwningDuties, Not Rights: The Consequences of Some Franciscan Perspectives on Politics," by Janet Coleman revisits long-discussed questions. The third essay, "Langland and the Franciscans on Dominium," by Lawrence M. Clopper pursues the question of "perfect poverty,'" dominium," and the necessities of life "that God out of his grace made . . . common to all" (p. 102).

The third and longest part of the book (pp. …

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