Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Katherine Little

Second Advisor

Nicole Wright

Third Advisor

David Paradis

Fourth Advisor

Paul Neimann

Abstract

In a time of increasingly secularized criticism of literary works as a whole, this project attempts to reevaluate the place of theology in Scottish literature by means of religious history. Theological threads in Scottish text are traced back to 14th century theologian and Christian reformer John Wyclif. His radical philosophy is traced through the work of Chaucer and his other contemporaries, and the traditional understanding of his work and following as an isolated movement is rejected. Instead, Wyclif and his followers, the Lollards, are presented as a strong force for religious reform that remained prominent both in Scotland and on the European continent years after Wyclif’s death. The possibility of overlap in John Calvin’s reformist Geneva between Wycliffite texts, Lollards, and John Calvin himself is taken as an indication that Calvin may have been intimately familiar with Wyclif’s work. An examination of Calvin’s theological tracts bolsters this claim. When John Knox returned to Scotland from Calvin’s Geneva to reform the Scottish Kirk, he did so with Calvin’s — and by extension Wyclif’s — work in mind. Two popular Scottish texts, one from between today and the Reformation and one from just a decade ago, are analyzed in terms of the theological threads that are derived from Wyclif’s work. Calvinism is thereby not only asserted to be a dominant thematic mode in Scottish literature, but the very theological foundations of Calvinism emerge as essential theological concepts, deeply influential to Scottish literature and Scottish religious identity for centuries. Beyond its critical intervention in Scottish literary studies, this project demands that Wyclif be taken seriously as not just a theologian, but as a philosopher and cultural figurehead.