medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
I do have a horse in this race, I guess, since I'm the person who apparently motivated John Briggs's crusade against Pfaff's book by recommending it as an authoritative source on English medieval liturgy. I'm grateful to Susan for objecting to the scorn and sarcasm that have characterized John's subsequent postings about the book. Since no other actual reader of the book has come forward to defend it, though, I feel obligated to add at least a little to my Dec. 3 posting on the subject.
Pfaff (whose main focus is the manuscripts, remember) may well have made some errors about the dates of the subsequent printed editions, but such errors are much less egregious than John suggests when he ridicules Pfaff for missing the 1502 edition of the Sarum processional [one copy of which survives, according to Bailey] and calls the result "calamitous on p.549 when an argument is constructed upon it." In fact, the error detracts only slightly from Pfaff's brief argument on 549-50 about the preponderance of manuscript service books over printed ones in the chapels of Lady Margaret Beaufort.
Some of John's other points in "Third Impressions" are even less well founded. He simply misreads Pfaff at least once:
> 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 that register (itself still unpublished), and in the missal" - what is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 it that is unpublished?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Pfaff's subject here is the prayers in Braybrooke's register, and it is clearly the register itself which remains unpublished, despite Simpson's printing FROM it (it is John, not Pfaff, who says "printing OF it.").
John also seems to misunderstand Pfaff's scholarly argument about parish churches and their liturgies, dismissing this whole section of the book with a disdainful put-down instead of coming to terms with the complexities of the subject:
> >The section on "Liturgy in parish churches" is unsatisfactory:
> unbelievably, Pfaff has difficulty defining a "parish church" (p.509)!
And he evidently assumes that Pfaff knows next to nothing about the work of Amalarius of Metz and its influence in England:
> 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.
If John had looked beyond the title of Pfaff's Variorium collection, _Liturgical Calendars, Saints, and Services in Medieval England_ (to which he refers in "Second Impressions"), he would have noticed an extensive and very learned commentary on the 'Abbreviatio Amalarii' of William of Malmesbury. It's not the same text, but I for one would be inclined to give Pfaff the benefit of the doubt.
I hope some other list members have been reading Pfaff's book for themselves and can join in this discussion. I have neither time nor expertise enough to write the sort of review this book deserves, but I know enough to be certain that John's "Impressions" are no substitute for an even-handed assessment.
----- Original Message -----
From: Susan Ridyard <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Sunday, January 3, 2010 6:23 am
Subject: Re: [M-R] Third Impressions: Pfaff - The Liturgy in Medieval England: A History
To: [log in to unmask]
> medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
> 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.
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