Shaming and Containing: Robert Persons Prescribes the Rules for Ecclesiastical Disputation

Houliston, Victor
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The Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (SASMARS)
It is thirty years since Peter Milward published his double-volume, blow by-blow account of religious controversies of the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages. In the mean time, there has been a great deal of highly sophisticated research into the doctrinal issues, political ramifications and cultural cross currents of these controversies. Perhaps the most comprehensive has been Anthony Milton’s magisterial analysis of the disputes that shaped the seventeenth-century Church of England, aptly entitled Catholic and Reformed. The competing claims surrounding martyrology have attracted increasing attention as the John Foxe industry has expanded. Scholars have noted the extraordinary, and sometimes surprising, cross-confessional exchanges of ideology and practice. We have become accustomed to the theorizing of identity politics involved in anti-Puritan and anti-Catholic propaganda. But there has been comparatively little study of the protocols of polemic: the development of the genres of controversy, the proposal of rules for the contest, and the question whether public disputation might be conducive to religious dialogue.
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