‘Modalities of Belief in the “Long” Fifteenth Century: Rethinking English Religious Writing, c. 1370-1509′
Blog Natalie

PhD Candidate, School of English, 2013-2016
Supervisors: Dr Stephen Kelly and Dr James Davis

Is it possible to uncover unbelief – uncertainty, doubt, apathy, scepticism – in lay devotional culture of the Middle Ages from the material evidence left to us? What does unbelief in the Middle Ages represent? Which forms of unbelief, if any, were permissible by the medieval Church? Which can we recover from fifteenth-century texts? How does ‘unbelief’ sit alongside notions of orthodoxy and heterodoxy? My thesis explores the ways in which nuances of religious belief are made manifest in pastoral, catechetical and religious writing of medieval England. Funded by the AHRC, my thesis seeks to problematise the terms historians frequently use to describe belief in the Middle Ages – religious, orthodox, heretical, pre-secular – to uncover notions of unbelief which complicate the prescribed dichotomy of orthodoxy vs heresy (and that notorious ‘grey area’ in between) which seems, in recent years, to have been applied to much of the material available for study. There is the danger, in opposing the simplified characterisation of orthodoxy and heterodoxy, that ‘unbelief’ might become the new, seemingly open yet just as limited, umbrella term for issues of belief which cannot be explained in a straightforward way. My thesis therefore proceeds cautiously with an approach which attempts to apply critical and theoretical analysis usually reserved for ‘modern’ notions of belief to material from the ‘long’ fifteenth century, an epoch quite often dismissed as lacking in innovative interaction with belief.

Publications:

‘“The puple is Godes, and not ȝoures”: Lancastrian Orthodoxy in the Digby Lyrics’, Review of English Studies 2013

Review: ‘Karen Hodder and Brendan O’Connell (eds), Transmission and Generation in Medieval and Renaissance Literature: Essays in Honour of John Scattergood (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2012)’, Óenach: FMRSI Reviews 5.1 (2013) pp. 1-5

Conference Papers:

‘The Politics of Naming “Heresy”: Unbelief in the “Age of Faith”’, International Society for Heresy Studies, New York, 2014

‘Powerful Doubt, Doubtful Power: Reading Unbelief in the “Age of Faith”’, Borderlines XVIII, UCC, 2014

‘Overmighty Subjects and the Undermighty King in Malory’s Le Morte Darthur’, Common Ground, QUB, 2013

‘The Deafening Silence of Lollardy? Narratives of Periodisation in Lollard Studies’, Borderlines XVII, TCD, 2013; Common Ground, QUB, 2013

‘“The puple is Godes, and not ȝoures”: Lancastrian Orthodoxy in the Digby Lyrics’, Borderlines XVI, QUB, 2012; Common Ground, QUB, 2012