In A Dialogue concerning Heresies (1529) and The Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer (1532–33), Thomas More proffers an account of natural language: the writing, speaking collectivity determines the meanings of words, and words picture the contents of the individual consciousness. All that is rendered in language, including the justifying faith of evangelical description, comes of the common, is the product of publicity. Though his twentieth- and twenty-first-century critics have thought otherwise, More’s contemporaries supposed his polemical contest with the evangelical William Tyndale a literary endeavor. In The Confutation More repeated and playfully dilated his opponent’s choicest phrases. In so doing, he sought to show the evil in Tyndale’s lexical pictures. The English were to reject both More’s religion and his account of natural language, while the evangelical doctrine, that meaning is an emanation of text, came tacitly to shape the theory and composition of profane poetry in the next century.

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