The Call to Read is the first full-length study to situate the surviving oeuvre of Reginald Pecock in the context of current scholarship on English vernacular theology of the late medieval period. Kirsty Campbell examines the important and innovative contribution Pecock made to late medieval debates about the roles of the Bible, the Church, the faculty of reason, and practices of devotion in fostering a vital, productive, and stable Christian community.
Campbell argues that Pecock’s fascinating attempt to educate the laity is more than an effort to supply religious reading material: it is an attempt to establish and unite a community of readers around his books, to influence and thus change the ways they understand their faith, the world, and their place in it. The aim of Pecock’s educational project is to harness the power of texts to effect religious change. Combining traditional approaches with innovative thinking on moral philosophy, devotional exercises, and theological doctrine, Pecock’s works of religious instruction are his attempt to reform a Christian community threatened by heresy through reshaping meaningful Christian practices and forms of belief. Campbell’s book will be of interest to scholars and students of medieval literature and culture, especially those interested in fifteenth-century religious history and culture.
“ The Call to Read argues that Reginald Pecock’s writings offer us a new view of the fifteenth century as a dynamic period in which writers, preachers, and poets were provoked by the threat of heresy to come up with new ways of thinking about the very foundations of belief and practice in the Christian community. By looking at Pecock in this way, the book contributes to the current reappraisal of the fifteenth century in terms of analyzing the effects of the Lollard heresy on vernacular culture.” — Vincent Gillespie, University of Oxford
“This book is a study of the surviving writings of the mid-fifteenth-century English bishop Reginald Pecock and the ambitious program of lay education he devised in response both to the explicit threat represented by the Lollards and the more insidious threat presented by orthodox counter-attacks against their views. The Call to Read represents the most promising attempt to encompass Pecock as an intellectual that I have seen, as well as the most lucid and sheerly interesting study of his writings. The book is a notable achievement and will be an important contribution to late medieval religious studies.” — Nicholas Watson, Harvard University
“An important contribution to our developing understanding of the complexity and diversity of fifteenth-century vernacular theologies. The first extended study of Pecock’s work to be published in twenty-five years, Campbell’s book both builds on, and greatly extends, our burgeoning understanding of fifteenth-century religious, intellectual, and literary culture.” — Fiona Somerset, Duke University
“The Call to Read offers an engaging introduction to the works of Bishop Reginald Pecock and perceptively assesses the contribution of this embattled cleric who, despite his arguments against Lollardy, was accused of heresy and finally exiled, deprived of his bishopric and his books . . . Presenting Pecock’s textual works as an ongoing attempt to construct new forms of orthodox devotional community, The Call to Read offers a compelling synthesis that resists oversimplification. This clearly written, unified monograph will be a valuable resource for advanced scholars and students alike." — Speculum
“Kristy Campbell . . . gives an account of the content of [Pecock’s] writings . . . and aims to show through them how far Pecock conformed to normal medieval lines of discussion and how far his views and modes of expressing them were individual . . . . Campbell’s book has some interesting ideas that deserve further consideration.” — Catholic Historical Review
“The Call to Read is well devised to guide us through the most important aspects of Pecock’s educational strategy . . . . Campbell provides the fullest account we have of his grand scheme for universal religious formation, and in the process she offers some intriguing observations on the intellectual vitality of an under-studied period in English history.” — Renaissance Quarterly
“Kirsty Campbell has written a sophisticated and in-depth analysis of the fifteenth-century theological writings of Reginald Pecock, which, more than any single study before, does justice to his achievement as a fifteenth-century intellectual. The study is particularly valuable for its detailed understanding of Pecock’s remarkable, and remarkably comprehensive, rethinking of contemporary teaching about morality, social action, contemplation, and the entire catechetical syllabus of religious instruction.” — Medium Aevum
“Campbell’s book is . . . to be welcomed as a full-length exploration that is amply illustrated with the bishop’s own words. She is a sure-footed guide through Pecock’s often involved discourse, his commitment to the role of texts and the judgment of reason in lay people’s learning, and their ability to make divinity and the ‘hard and derk maters’ that belonged to God proper topics for the dinner table.” — American Historical Review
“Throughout, Campbell compares Pecock’s writings with other works of religious instruction and guides to moral behavior in an attempt to tease out what is ‘innovative’ or ‘creative’ in his program, as opposed to its ‘traditional,’ ‘conservative,’ or ‘hierarchical’ aspects. . . . Campbell successfully relates Pecock to some of the major preoccupations of recent scholarship on religious writing: lay-clerical relations, devotional practices, and theories of the mixed life.” — Modern Philology