The Senses and the English Reformation  book cover
1st Edition

The Senses and the English Reformation

ISBN 9780754666424
Published March 18, 2011 by Routledge
430 Pages

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Book Description

It is a commonly held belief that medieval Catholics were focussed on the 'bells and whistles' of religious practices, the smoke, images, sights and sounds that dazzled pre-modern churchgoers. Protestantism, in contrast, has been cast as Catholicism's austere, intellective and less sensual rival sibling. With iis white-washed walls, lack of incense (and often music) Protestantism worship emphasised preaching and scripture, making the new religion a drab and disengaged sensual experience. In order to challenge such entrenched assumptions, this book examines Tudor views on the senses to create a new lens through which to explore the English Reformation. Divided into two sections, the book begins with an examination of pre-Reformation beliefs and practices, establishing intellectual views on the senses in fifteenth-century England, and situating them within their contemporary philosophical and cultural tensions. Having established the parameters for the role of sense before the Reformation, the second half of the book mirrors these concerns in the post-1520 world, looking at how, and to what degree, the relationship between religious practices and sensation changed as a result of the Reformation. By taking this long-term, binary approach, the study is able to tackle fundamental questions regarding the role of the senses in late-medieval and early modern English Christianity. By looking at what English men and women thought about sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, the stereotype that Protestantism was not sensual, and that Catholicism was overly sensualised is wholly undermined. Through this examination of how worship was transformed in its textual and liturgical forms, the book illustrates how English religion sought to reflect changing ideas surrounding the senses and their place in religious life. Worship had to be 'sensible', and following how reformers and their opponents built liturgy around experience of the sacred through the physical allows us to tease out the tensions and pressures which shaped religious reform.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: towards thinking about sensation in Tudor religion; The senses and sensing in 15th-century England; Religiosity and sensing in pre-Reformation England; The senses and worship: provision for liturgy in late-medieval England; Sensing pre-Reformation English liturgy; Sensory landscapes of Reformation England; Perception, polity, and gostly thynges in Reformation England; Sensible reformation in mid-Tudor England; Sensing and worship in Elizabethan England; Epilogue; Bibliography; Index.

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Dr Matthew Milner is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Early Modern Studies and Digital Humanities at McGill University, Canada


'Milner's work is as thorough as it is fascinating...The Senses and the English Reformation is a magisterial work that will open more avenues of research in this crucial area regarding the role of the senses in experiencing the divine via liturgical worship.' Trinity Journal 'The Senses and the English Reformation is valuable because it opens up the human senses in worship as a new realm for study. Perception itself was one of the great disputed features of the Reformation in England.' Renaissance Quarterly 'This stimulating addition to the historiography deepens our appreciation of the implications of Reformation and its far-reaching nature.' Reformation 'With extraordinary learning, Matthew Milner examines philosophical views of the senses from the high Middle Ages through the sixteenth century... Those concerned with the texture of religious practice in the crucial centuries of pre- and post-Reformation England will prize the learning and scope of this book.' Catholic Historical Review 'Matthew Milner’s The Senses and the English Reformation is an erudite and well-researched study that describes the history of the senses and sensuality in the pre-Reformation and post-Reformation church in England... an essential study of the history of the Reformation from an adept and careful scholar.' Sixteenth Century Studies 'Milner’s ambitious book highlights potential sensory developments in stimulating and thought-provoking terms. This approach does not yet revise the Reformation, but it does valuably extend our interpretive framework, and calls for clearer definition of the intellective (selection and meaning) and the sensory (physical and spiritual).' American Historical Review 'The book adopts an exemplary strategy. It tells us all about the late medieval devotional landscape and its reliance on the senses and then explores how things changed in England in the Wake of the Reformation... The volume opens up many promising avenues of future research.' Religious S