The "Puncta" of Jan Hus: Latin Transmission of Vernacular Preaching

Jan Hus's earliest sermon collection, the "Puncta", represents a typical example of how sermons were transmitted in late medieval Central Europe: preaching, originally a vernacular oral event, was recorded in the context of Latin learned culture, reworked by the preacher himself and/or by readers who used it for their own reference. The "Puncta" survive in seven manuscripts. They contain sermons for whole Church year arranged either in two parts (de tempore and de sanctis), or in one piece (per circulum anni). This suggests that the collection was subject to some re-arrangements made by scribes or users. The original popular-theological content, supposedly adapted to the needs of illiterate public at the point of vernacular delivery, remain concealed under the layer deposed by manuscript users. The remaining traces of live vernacular preaching can be discerned only if the intricacies of textual transmission and reception are taken into account.

Given the very limited scholarly attention the collection has gained so far, this project departs from an elementary examination of surviving manuscript versions. The question of sources is be addressed and the dating of the collection as well as its relation to the oral delivery re-examined. Special focus is on narrative or explanatory inserts and on Czech glosses. One distinctive feature of the "Puncta" is the tension between the learned apparatus (such as the explicit references to Aristotle's writings) on the one hand and the numerous distinctiones, exempla and figurae on the other hand. Furthermore, some germinal motives of Hussite agitation for Church reform can be found in this collection. The case study of the "Puncta" thus provides clues to the means by which preachers intended to get theological matters in general, and the reform agenda in particular, over to the laity.