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9 English Recusant Controversy in Spanish Print Culture: Dissemination, Popularisation, Fictionalisation

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Chapter Summary

Controversy – or theologia polemica, with a long and rich tradition in the Middle Ages – was one of the pillars of the Counter-Reformation. This was particularly the case for English Catholic students in overseas colleges, where the training in controversy was a core part of college curricula and seen by college authorities as essential to successful service on the English mission. Indeed controversy and training in controversy became a distinctive element of seminary life in the English colleges in Spain, notably those at Valladolid and Seville. Both institutions, in their search for patronage and support in Spain, published narrative accounts in Spanish of the hardships suffered by English Catholics. These published accounts, so central to fund-raising efforts, were adapted to local taste and into local genres, like the relaciones, martyrdom accounts, avisos, and pliegos sueltos. In this complex process of narrative composition, adaptation, publication, and dissemination, the distinctive preoccupation of this literature with the heroic virtue, religious zeal, and controversial acumen of persecuted English priests contributed to the popularisation and subsequent fictionalisation of the literary characters created in Spanish print culture. This was one of the most important achievements of the college network in Spain. It exercised a formative influence not only on English Catholic clergy and laity on the mission but also on the English Catholic diaspora and their Spanish patrons.
That disputation is a good meanes and profitable instrument to examine and try our truth, even in matters of faith, yf yt be rightly used and with due circumstances, no man can deny.
Robert Persons, A Revievv of Ten Publike Disputations, 1604



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