Spoken Word and Social Practice

Orality in Europe (1400-1700)


Spoken Word and Social Practice: Orality in Europe (1400-1700) addresses historians and literary scholars. It aims to recapture oral culture in a variety of literary and non-literary sources, tracking the echo of women’s voices, on trial, or bantering and gossiping in literary works, and recapturing those of princes and magistrates, townsmen, villagers, mariners, bandits, and songsmiths. Almost all medieval and early modern writing was marked by the oral. Spoken words and turns of phrase are bedded in writings, and the mental habits of a speaking world shaped texts. Writing also shaped speech; the oral and the written zones had a porous, busy boundary. Cross-border traffic is central to this study, as is the power, range, utility, and suppleness of speech.
Contributors are Matthias Bähr, Richard Blakemore, Michael Braddick, Rosanna Cantavella, Thomas V. Cohen, Gillian Colclough, Jan Dumolyn, Susana Gala Pellicer, Jelle Haemers, Marcus Harmes, Elizabeth Horodowich, Carolina Losada, Virginia Reinburg, Anne Regent-Susini, Joseph T. Snow, Sonia Suman, Lesley K. Twomey and Liv Helene Willumsen.
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Biographical Note

Thomas V. Cohen (Ph.D., 1974, Harvard University), is Professor of History and Humanities at York University in Toronto. He writes microhistories about the cultural and political anthropology of early modern Rome, championing close cultural reading of social documents and the narrative light touch.

Lesley Karen Twomey (Ph.D., 1995, Hull University) is Reader in the Department of Arts at Northumbria University. She has published monographs on material culture in religious writing and a study of doctrine in Hispanic poetry and many articles on Isabel de Villena, a fifteenth-century Franciscan woman writer.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements ix
List of Figures x
List of Contributors xi
Life and Works of Alexander Francis Cowan xii
Bibliography of Alexander Cowan xiV
Introduction 1
Thomas V. Cohen and Lesley K. Twomey
Witches’ Words
1 Oral Transfer of Ideas about Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century
Norway 47
Liv Helene Willumsen
2 St Helena and Love Magic: From the Spanish Inquisition to the
Internet 84
Susana Gala Pellicer
Words on Trial
3 The Power of the Spoken Word
Depositions of the Imperial Chamber Court: Power, Resistance,
and ‘Orality’ 115
Matthias Bähr
4 Tracking Conversation in the Italian Courts 139
Thomas V. Cohen
Preaching the Word
5 Tears for Fears: Mission Preaching in Seventeenth-Century France –
a Double Performance 185
Anne Régent-Susini
6 Powerful Words: St Vincent Ferrer’s Preaching and the Jews in
Medieval Castile 206
Carolina Losada
7 ‘A Most Notable Spectacle’: Early Modern Easter Spital Sermons 228
Sonia Suman
Word on the Street
8 Orality and Mutiny: Authority and Speech amongst the Seafarers
of Early Modern London 253
Richard J. Blakemore
9 ‘A Blabbermouth Can Barely Control His Tongue’: Political Poems,
Songs and Prophecies in the Low Countries (Fifteenth–Sixteenth
Centuries) 280
Jan Dumolyn and Jelle Haemers
10 Proverbs and Princes in Post-Reformation England 300
Marcus Harmes and Gillian Colclough
Gossip and Gossipers
11 The Meanings of Gossip in Sixteenth-Century Venice 321
Elizabeth Horodowich
12 Gossip and Social Standing in Celestina: Verbal Venom as Art 343
Joseph T. Snow
Prayer, Teaching, and Religious Talk
13 Oral Rites: Prayer and Talk in Early Modern France 375
Virginia Reinburg
14 The Seducer’s Tongue: Oral and Moral Issues in Medieval
Erotodidactic Schooltexts 393
Rosanna Cantavella
15 Preaching God’s Word in a Late-medieval Valencian Convent:
Isabel de Villena, Writer and Preacher 421
Lesley K. Twomey
16 Afterword 446
Michael J. Braddick
Bibliography 463
Index 486


Students of late medieval and early modern literature and language, religion, social action and general culture, both high and low.


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