medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
From: Revd Gordon Plumb <[log in to unmask]>
> Dear Christopher
> I am sure you are right about University Presses putting our Crap & Drivel
- but there are ways of expressing one's concerns whilst keeping within
the bounds of normally scholarly courtesy - which appears to be the issue here
for some folk.
well, Gordon, i've re-read John's postings reviewing Pfaff and find them to
be, not only quite precise, but also quite restrained in their criticism
--probably more so than if it had been i who were writing about something i
know something about, after reading something in my area of expertise by a
recognized and respected scholar in the field which i had been looking forward
to for some years, and which tended to "disappoint" (shall we courteously
of course, i'm sure that John would have toned his language down somewhat (or
maybe even considerably), if he had been writing for formal publication rather
than for an informal email discussion list.
i've seen criticism of sloppy "scholarship" in, say, Chartrain studies, which,
while Right on the Mark and even imminently deserved, crossed the line over
into somewhat childish, ad hominem attack.
John, clearly, has not crossed that line --despite his evident frustration
with what appears to have been some very sloppy work by someone who should
have known better, published by a noted university press which clearly should
have done better.
>An example of how to do a fairly devastating review of a scholarly work in
such a civilised way is that by our regular contributor
Jim Bugslag in the current issue of "The Journal of Stained Glass", reviewing
Victor Beyer's "Les Vitraux de l'ancienne église des Dominicains de
Strasbourg" (Presses universitaires de Strasbourg for the German CVMA), 2007.
thanks, Gordon, i'll try to read this, if and when i can figure out how the
hell to access what is said to be an "Online Electronic Resource" in my
lieberry catalog but which doesn't seem to be operable.
but, Jim's a very courteous guy, being a Canadian, even though he has
personally experienced the quite pernicious effect which the publication of
PURE CRAP by a [supposedly] prestigious university press has had on his own
particular scholarly bailiwick.
and this is, perhaps, the whole point which should be made here: once birthed
into the world under the imprimatur of a [supposedly] prestigious university
press, Scholarly Schlock simply poisons the well from which we all must draw
------ Original Message ------
Received: Sun, 03 Jan 2010 12:21:28 PM EST
From: John Briggs <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [M-R] Third Impressions: Pfaff - The Liturgy in Medieval England:
> medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
> Well, my "impressions" are very much interim reports - I am still
formulating my "final conclusions". But two points:
> (1) I have read the book and you haven't. I made exactly the same mistake as
you in assuming beforehand that it was "obviously" a substantial work. I would
be delighted to discuss any aspect of the book - or my account of it - with
anyone who has read the book, but it is pointless arguing with someone who
> (2) I have given chapter and verse (or rather page) for the errors listed
below. Yes, some are trivial - careless, even - but others are more serious.
For example, on p.549 Pfaff argues that because there were no processionals
printed for use in England before 1508, then the many processionals listed for
Lady Margaret Beaufort's household chapel must have been manuscripts. I am by
no means an expert in the field of liturgy (I know rather more about medieval
architecture, which is why I am quite so dismissive of Pfaff's attempts to
relate liturgy to architecture), so I just should not have been able to spot
quite so many errors. How many more have I missed? This suggests to me (a)
that Professor Pfaff's friends and colleagues should have been more attentive
in their reading of his drafts, and (b) that Cambridge University Press have
been slack in their reviewing, editing and copy-editing of his manuscript.
> John Briggs
> ---- Susan Ridyard <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
> > >John
> > I don't have a horse or any other animal in this race, but I'm sure
> > I'm not alone in finding the tone of these remarks somewhat
> > offensive. Pfaff is a distinguished scholar who has obviously written
> > a substantial work; it may have some errors, as most works inevitably
> > do; but it surely deserves to be treated with more professional
> > objectivity and less relentless sarcasm.
> > Sue
> > >medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and
> > >
> > >Another change of gear: the last 250 pages consist of five chapters
> > >on the secular Uses and a final concluding chapter. Picking up the
> > >story of the secular Uses at about 1100 after 200 pages on the
> > >monastic Uses (!), we have three chapters on the Sarum Use, with one
> > >on Exeter (don't ask!) and another on the other Uses.
> > >
> > >The three chapters on the Sarum Use seem much more like a coherent
> > >history. Not that it actually is, of course. It's the familiar
> > >story of manuscripts, saints and modern editions. There are curious
> > >errors: a reference (p.373) to Frere using the same alphabetical
> > >sigla for his editions of the Sarum consuetudinary and customary,
> > >despite them referring to different manuscripts (yes, but the sigla
> > >for the customary are in bold, and a different typeface!); the
> > >reference (p.426n) to an incomplete edition of the Sarum antiphonal
> > >in 1519 (a reference on p.549 to the "sole edition" of the
> > >antiphonal in 1519-20 gives the correct answer); a curious belief
> > >that the Sarum Processional of 1508 (edited by Henderson) was the
> > >first printed one - calamitous on p.549 when an argument is
> > >constructed upon it (even from my bed I can clearly see that the
> > >facsimile edition has "1502" on the spine! The mistake must arise
> > >from a touching reliance on Dickinson's "List of Printed Service
> > >Books" of 1850: Pfaff does make use of Wordsworth's "Ceremonies and
> > >Processions of the Cathedral Church of Salisbury" ["Edited from the
> > >fifteenth century MS no. 148, with additions from the cathedral
> > >records, and woodcuts from the Sarum processionale of 1502", 1901]
> > >which should have given him a clue, but not of Bailey's "The
> > >Processions of Sarum and the Western Church"  - the name
> > >"Terence Bailey" occurs neither in the index nor the
> > >acknowledgments).
> > >
> > >Pfaff continues to trip himself up over bibliographical and
> > >biographical issues. On p.425 he writes: "As early as 1842-43
> > >Charles Seager published two fascicules of a proposed edition of the
> > >Sarum Book" [the Sarum Breviary] "but apparently lost interest after
> > >his conversion to Roman Catholicism in the latter year." Well, no.
> > >The fascicle published in 1843 was the second edition (actually a
> > >re-issue with considerable added matter and a new title page) of the
> > >the first fascicle of 1842. The second fascicle was published in
> > >1855.
> > >On the next page, discussing the Procter and Wordsworth edition, he
> > >writes (p.426n): "the patience of the Cambridge University Press may
> > >have been wearing thin." Is it fanciful to suggest that he is
> > >projecting his own experience onto the 19th century?
> > >
> > >The Exeter chapter concludes with a reference: "Frere, p.70, citing
> > >pp.10-11 of H.E. Reynolds's edition of the Exeter Chapter Acts, a
> > >book unavailable to me." Well, it's not unavailable to me: I have
> > >Christopher Wordsworth's copy!
> > >
> > >Chapter 14, "Regional Uses and local variety" is much more
> > >satisfactory. The brief account (pp.445-462) of the York Use is a
> > >model of clarity. Unfortunately, here we have a comparison: in 2008,
> > >Matthew Cheung Salisbury published as Borthwick Paper 113 "The Use
> > >of York: Characteristics of the Medieval Liturgical Office in York."
> > >An attempt to compare them shows that they can't be compared: they
> > >are largely examining different manuscripts! Pfaff takes five saints
> > >to be diagnostic of the York Use. Salisbury (who is only looking at
> > >the Office) takes a different approach: he uses the Responsory
> > >series to distinguish a group of York Breviaries from Sarum
> > >Breviaries adapted to the York Use. He identifies seventeen feasts
> > >as peculiar to the York Use, but argues that they cannot be used as
> > >a diagnostic tool.
> > >
> > >The discussion of the Hereford Use (pp.463-480) is satisfactory, if
> > >somewhat limited. A trick is missed in discussing the St Paul's Use:
> > >Pfaff wonders why that term is used instead of "London Use", but
> > >doesn't consider why the cathedral is called "St Paul's Cathedral"
> > >rather than "London Cathedral". A howler seems to be perpetrated on
> > >p.481: he claims that the 10th century "Rule of St Paul's" was "an
> > >adaptation of the Institutio Canonicorum of Amalarius of Metz" - I'm
> > >pretty certain he doesn't mean either "Institutio Canonicorum" or
> > >"Amalarius of Metz" - what actually means is somewhat opaque. Total
> > >obscurity occurs on p.491: "Both in Sparrow Simpson's 1875 printing
> > >of that register (itself still unpublished), and in the missal" -
> > >what is it that is unpublished? Several of Simpson's publications
> > >are cited, but his "Registrum" dates from 1873.
> > >
> > >Pfaff is (probably correctly) sceptical of the existence (ever) of
> > >the Lincoln Use which he considers to be a reification of Cranmer's
> > >preface to the Book of Common Prayer. Here he misses a couple of
> > >tricks. First, he could have mention that the list of Uses in that
> > >preface: "And whereas heretofore there hath been great diversity in
> > >saying and singing in Churches within this Realm; some following
> > >Salisbury Use, some Hereford Use, and some the Use of Bangor, some
> > >of York, some of Lincoln;" differs from the list in the preamble to
> > >the 1549 Act of Uniformity itself: "Where of long time there has
> > >been had in this realm of England and in Wales divers forms of
> > >common prayer, commonly called the service of the Church; that is to
> > >say the Use of Sarum, of York, of Bangor, and of Lincoln;" Second,
> > >he could have pointed out that the preface is itself highly
> > >rhetorical (Pfaff himself points out on p.478 that the Sarum Use had
> > >already been made uniform for the southern province) and is a free
> > >translation of Cardinal Quignon's preface to his own reformed
> > >Breviary!
> > >
> > >The section on "Liturgy in parish churches" is unsatisfactory:
> > >unbelievably, Pfaff has difficulty defining a "parish church"
> > >(p.509)!
> > >
> > >The last chapter "Towards the end of the story" is rather a rag-bag,
> > >with subjects as diverse as the Bridgettines and printed service
> > >books. This is done, of course, to avoid any suggestion of teleology
> > >or whiggishness: as if it wasn't blindingly obvious (whatever Eamon
> > >Duffy might say) that the Reformation was inevitable. A howler is
> > >made in trying to strain a point that didn't need to be made at all
> > >(in the context of printed breviaries for Abingdon and St Albans):
> > >"The monks can scarcely have supposed that their choirs would soon
> > >be bare, as at Abingdon, or ruined, as at St Albans." It's the other
> > >way around, of course! (Pfaff's attempts to relate liturgy to
> > >architecture are consistently painful.)
> > >
> > >Final conclusions to follow.
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