Nicholas J. Watson F'08

Nicholas J. Watson
Professor
English and American Literature and Language
Harvard University
last updated: 5/21/2019

ACLS Fellowship Program 2008
Professor
English and American Literature and Language
Harvard University
Balaam's Ass: Vernacular Theology and the Secularization of England, 1050-1550

This is the first synthetic history of vernacular theological writing in England between the Norman Conquest and the Reformation, including works written in Old English, Anglo-Norman French, and Middle English, as well as in Latin. Through close examination of the recurrences of a set of themes, traditions, and texts over a half-millenium, the study tracks aspects of the process by which western Christianity established itself definitively as a secular or lay-oriented religion; a religion that, despite its constant appeal to the transcendent, is fundamentally directed towards the world. In the process, this research offers a synthetic literary history of England’s vernacular religious writing over the nearly 500-year period leading up to the Protestant Reformation.