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The Culture of Inquisition in Medieval England


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Inquisition in medieval and early modern England has typically been the subject of historical rather than cultural investigation, and focussed on heresy. Here, however, inquisition is revealed as playing a broader role in medieval English culture, not only in relation to sanctions like excommunication, penance and confession, but also in the fields of exemplarity, rhetoric and poetry. Beyond its specific legal and pastoral applications, inquisitio was a dialogic mode of inquiry, a means of discerning, producing or rewriting truth, and an often adversarial form of invention and literary authority.
The essays in this volume cover such topics as the theory and practice of canon law, heresy and its prosecution, Middle English pastoralia, political writing and romance. As a result, the collection redefines the nature of inquisition's role within both medieval law and culture, and demonstrates the extent to which it penetrated the late-medieval consciousness, shaping public fame and private selves, sexuality and gender, rhetoric, and literature.

Mary C. Flannery is a lecturer in English at the University of Lausanne; Katie L. Walter is a lecturer in English at the University of Sussex.

Contributors: Mary C. Flannery, Katie L. Walter, Henry Ansgar Kelly, Edwin Craun, Ian Forrest, Diane Vincent, Jenny Lee, James Wade, Genelle Gertz, Ruth Ahnert, Emily Steiner


A valuable collection that offers intriguing insights into understanding medieval inquisition as a complex and dynamic concept not confined to investigations of heresy. MEDIAEVISTIK 26, 2013


First Published: 21 Mar 2013
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843843368
1 black and white illustrations
Pages: 202
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: D.S.Brewer
BIC Class: HBLC1

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  Introduction: Imagining Inquisition
  • 2  Inquisition, Public Fame, and Confession: General Rules and English Practice
  • 3  The Imperatives of Denunciatio: Disclosing Other's Sins to Disciplinary Authorities
  • 4  English Provincial Constitutions and Inquisition into Lollardy
  • 5  The Contest over the Public Imagination of Inquisition, 1380-1430
  • 6  'Vttirli Onknowe'? Modes of Inquiry and the Dynamics of Interiority in Vernacular Literature
  • 7  From Defacement to Restoration: Inquisition, Confession and Thomas Usk's Appeal and Testament of Love
  • 8  Confession, Inquisition and Exemplarity in The Erle of Toulous and Other Middle English Romances
  • 9  Heresy Inquisition and Authorship, 1400-1560
  • 10  Imitating Inquisition: Dialectical Bias in Protestant Prison Writings
  • 11  Response Essay: Chaucer's Inquisition

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