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date: 21 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Vernacular theology was first used by Ian Doyle in relation to Middle English texts in 1953. Doyle comments that “there was little or no original thought in the vernacular.” While Doyle’s model of vernacular theology embraced both catechetic and contemplative texts, “vernacular theology” has recently been associated with attempts to explore complex ideas and articulate advanced spiritual experiences. This article examines the history of vernacular theology in England and its connection with religious literature. It considers the advanced and highly sophisticated vernacular theology of Julian of Norwich as well as Nicholas Watson’s influential discussions of the English instantiation of vernacular theology in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Furthermore, it analyzes William Langland’s poem Piers Plowman and its progressive and sequential dramatization of the difficulties and rewards of vernacular theology. Finally, it discusses the Oxford debate on translation as an issue in pastoral theology, with reference to Thomas Arundel’s 1409 decrees against the use of the vernacular in religious speculation and against translation of religious texts into English.

Keywords: vernacular theology, England, religious literature, Julian of Norwich, Nicholas Watson, William Langland, Piers Plowman, translation, pastoral theology, Thomas Arundel

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