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Oral Culture and Catholicism in Early Modern England


  • Page extent: 260 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.55 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521883955)

After the Reformation, England's Catholics were marginalised and excluded from using printed media for propagandist ends. Instead, they turned to oral media, such as ballads and stories, to plead their case and maintain contact with their community. Building on the growing interest in Catholic literature which has developed in early modern studies, Alison Shell examines the relationship between Catholicism and oral culture from the mid-sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. In order to recover the textual traces of this minority culture, she expands canonical boundaries, looking at anecdotes, spells and popular verse alongside more conventionally literary material. In her archival research she uncovers many important manuscript sources. This book is an important contribution to the rediscovery of the writings and culture of the Catholic community and will be of great interest to scholars of early modern literature, history and theology.

• An important contribution to the growing field of Catholic literature and culture studies • Contains much original scholarship on important yet little-known texts • Of great interest to literary, historical and theological scholars


Introduction: Catholicism and oral culture in early modern England; 1. Abbey ruins, sacrilege narratives and the Gothic imagination; 2. Anti-Popery and the supernatural; 3. Answering back: orality and controversy; 4. Martyrs and confessors in oral culture; Conclusion: orality, tradition and truth.


Review of the hardback: '… important, thought-provoking and frequently witty new study … Alison Shell is an assured and engaging literary guide, deeply read in the historical scholarship of the period, and deftly employing theoretical insights without jargon or prolixity.' The Times Literary Supplement

Review of the hardback: 'Alison Shell … has written a clearly important book that will earn its place in any academic library. … The book will be essential reading for students of history, literature and theology.' The Historical Association

'This well-written volume takes an approach to the study of the reformation Era that seems quite obvious - and yet that has been neglected … the book succeeds in its aims of bringing to light infromation either ignored or treated only superficially in the past.' The Journal of Church History

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