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Burning to Read: English Fundamentalism and Its Reformation Opponents

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  24 ratings  ·  7 reviews

The evidence is everywhere: fundamentalist reading can stir passions and provoke violence that changes the world. Amid such present-day conflagrations, this illuminating book reminds us of the sources, and profound consequences, of Christian fundamentalism in the sixteenth century.

James Simpson focuses on a critical moment in early modern England, specifically the cultu

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published November 23rd 2007 by Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
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Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very insightful critique of the inconsistencies within 16th century Protestant theology, with a surprisingly sympathetic reading of Thomas More's views on Scripture. The author recognizes that More was not opposed to vernacular Bibles but to particular translations with a tendency to undermine Church teaching, especially on the Sacraments. The author is friendly to More's notion that Scripture must be read within a tradition, and hails this notion as a remedy for violent fundamentalism. His chal ...more
Dan Knauss
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
[[ TLDR: Burning to Read is an academic but very readable collection of essays that were first given as lectures by a major figure in late medieval/early modern English literary studies. In Simpson's retelling, the Henrician Reformation is a story of the rise of fundamentalist discourse rooted in literalist textuality, a misanthropic and paranoid psychology of abjection, a hermeneutic of suspicion, and the basis for despotism and violence. Clearly this Reformation is not the unproblematic scene ...more
Sasha  Wolf
This is an interesting and disturbing account of the mentality of Reformation literalism. Unfortunately it is not an easy read; there is a lot of repetition, the style is uneven, and there is some postmodernist jargon. The Kindle edition unfortunately does not contain the images from the print version.
Karl Steel
Feb 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Several months ago, visiting family, someone mentioned that he had just returned from a sermon on Ezekiel 16. We asked, "what did the pastor say?" "Do what God wants or else." If you don't know Ezekiel 16, have a read: it tropes Israel as a foundling that God raises, pimps out, marries, and then casts out for sleeping around. It might not strike you that "do what God wants or else" is the best or even an adequate reading of the strange sexuality of this chapter, but, armed with Simpson's Burning ...more
Jul 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Clayton Crockett, Aaron Simmons, Jay McDaniel, Peter Mehl, Toran Isom
Recommended to Kev by: Jeff Kelley
The most imortant thing I learned is that it is very dangerous to misconstrue that what you read is what it says or means.

Pedagogy is crucial to understanding. Learning & competent wisdom depends upon a mentoring teacher to lead one to what one reads being what it says & means.

The bane of unintended consequences is that very opportunity of a new innovation can lead to the genesis of the exact opposite of the good one intended to do -- and it can happen so very much faster than one expects.

Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very smooth, engaging prose makes this work quite enjoyable. It poses itself as a revisionist history of the reformation, but to a Catholic like myself (who has been hearing accounts of the reformation that go against the tide of protestant triumphalism) it doesn't seem to be doing anything particularly unusual. It is design for popular appeal, but it still manages to have some decent intellectual meat underneath the seasoning. ...more
Jonathan Lyons
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
A radical reinterpretation of the roots of religious fundamentalism in the Christian tradition.
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William James Simpson (writing as James Simpson), Ph.D., is a lecturer and Chair of the English Department at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Girton College. His primary focus is on medieval literature, as well as Middle English and early modern literature and culture (1150-1600).

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