When sixteenth-century English Catholics and Protestants argued with each other, they often tried to explain why their opponents held such erroneous beliefs. This paper considers one of the most sweeping explanations found in Tudor poetry and polemic. Prominent figures like More, Tyndale, Gardiner, Cranmer, and others argued that their opponents were liars — indeed, quite literally goddamned liars — who knew the truth, but willingly defended errors. Focusing on these claims, the paper argues that contemporaries did not necessarily interpret the Reformation as an intellectual or epistemological crisis, but rather as a serious moral crisis marked by insincerity and a willing disregard for truth.
Karl Gunther is Associate Professor of History at the University of Miami. His first book, Reformation Unbound (CUP, 2014), was a finalist for the RHS Whitfield Prize and the Runner-up for the ASCH Brewer Prize, and his articles have appeared in Past & Present, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, History Compass, and Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte. Karl is currently working on a second book (Wrong! Confronting Error in Reformation England) on the ways in which Catholics and Protestants tried to make sense of religious pluralism in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England. He is President of the Southern Conference on British Studies, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and an obsessive bread baker.
Karl’s paper, co-sponsored by Renaissance Studies at SCSU and the Yale Renaissance Colloquium, is part of a two-day symposium at Southern CT State University on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, “What is Reform? 1517-2017” (March 2-3).
Dr. Joel M. Dodson
Department of English, Southern CT State University