Book Series Disputatio, vol. 29

Devotional Literature and Practice in Medieval England

Readers, Reading, and Reception

Kathryn R. Vulić, Susan Uselmann, C. Annette Grisé (eds)

  • Pages: 284 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2017

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-53029-1
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-54009-2
  • E-book
  • Available

A collection of essays examining the reading and reception of devotional texts in medieval England, from representations of readers and reading in devotional texts, to manuscripts and early books as devotional objects.


“La pluralità di metodi e la singolarità del tema rappresentano i tratti di maggiore originalità della raccolta (…) La studiosa non si limita a proporre una sintesi e un bilancio delle acquisizioni, ma coglie l’occasione per dimostrare la produttività delle categorie e delle argomentazioni emerse nei singoli saggi, applicate all’analisi di altri testi (…) confermando così l’originalità e l’interesse dei questa miscellanea.” (Marina Giani” in Studi Medievali, LIX/2, 2018, p. 956-958)

“This volume presents an enviable editorial coherency. An elaborate introduction and insightful afterword are accompanied by linking between essays in substantial footnotes, as well as by the authors themselves. The volume lives up to the promise of showing the greyscales, continuities and complexities of parallel cultures, traditionally presented as oppositional, be they masculine and feminine, lay and clerical, heterodox and orthodox, or Latin and vernacular. Grounded in concrete examples, it reminds us of the fascinating complexities of late medieval English devotional culture. (Eyal Poleg, in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 70, 2019, p. 151-152)

“(…) given the quality of each contribution, readers of any individual essay will encounter thought-provoking research that shows how writers fostered intellectually and spiritually ambitious modes of reading.” (Mary Raschko, in Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 118/2, 2019, p. 276)


This volume recognises that religious writings care deeply about how devotional reading takes place, providing models for improving reading as a way of improving one’s ability to worship. The abundant evidence from medieval England suggests a deep interest among devotional writers in documenting, teaching, and circumscribing devotional reading, given the importance of careful reading practices for salvation. This volume therefore draws together a wide range of interests in and approaches to studying the reading and reception of devotional texts in medieval England, from representations of readers and reading in devotional texts, to literary production and reception of devotional texts and images, to manuscripts and early books as devotional objects, to individual readers and patrons of devotional texts.

Prefaced by a substantial introduction by the editors – setting the community in its wider religious and cultural environment and against the backdrop of broad historiographical trends – this volume brings together substantial essays based on original research by new and leading scholars in the field of medieval English studies. This collection (and indeed, many of the individual articles) brings into dialogue a number of traditional disciplinary approaches – early and late medieval English literary studies, gender studies, manuscript studies, and religious studies. It strives to reflect trends in current scholarship of breaking down disciplinary boundaries and exploring the relationships between and among not only analytical and critical perspectives, but also the kinds of evidence examined.


Introduction: Devotional Reading in Late Medieval England: Problems of Definition – SUSAN USELMANN

Representations of Reading

‘Þe lettere sleeþ’: Lollards, Literalism, and the Definition of Bad Readers – ANNA LEWIS

Speculum vitae and ‘Lewed’ ReadingKATHRYN VULIĆ

Representing Reading in Dives and Pauper – ELIZABETH SCHIRMER

The Practice of Reading

Meditative Reading and the Vespers Antiphon in the Monastic Office for Saint Cuthbert – KARMEN LENZ

Lectio Divina and Scriptural Reading in Syon’s Vernacular Printed Books – C. ANNETTE GRISÉ

A Matter of Convenience: Nicholas Love’s Mirror of Private Devotional Reading – SUSAN USELMANN

Modelling Readers

Printing, Propaganda, and Profit: Richard Pynson and the Life of St Radegund – CHRISTINA M. CARLSON

‘For the prouffyte of other’: Lady Margaret Beaufort and the Female Reader as Translator in The Mirrour of Golde to the Synfull Soule – STEPHANIE MORLEY

Bodleian Library MS Holkham Miscellany 41 and the Modelling of Women’s Devotion – CATHERINE INNES-PARKER

Afterword: Adaptation, Negotiation, and Transformation – C. ANNETTE GRISÉ