Burr, David (Dwight) 1934-
BURR, David (Dwight) 1934-
PERSONAL: Born October 13, 1934, in Pittsfield, MA. Education: Oberlin College, B.A., 1958; Union Theological Seminary, B.D., 1963; Duke University, Ph.D. (church history), 1966.
ADDRESSES: Office—Dept. of History, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, VA 24061. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Educator, historian, and author. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, 1966—, began as assistant professor, became professor of history, 1977-2001, professor emeritus, 2001—.
Visiting fellowships at Greyfriars, Oxford, 1984-85, and Clare Hall, Cambridge, 1988-85; taught in Italy and France.
MEMBER: American Historical Association, American Society of Church History, Mediaeval Academy of America, American Association of University Professors.
AWARDS, HONORS: National Endowment for the Humanities grants, 1984-85, 1988-89.
Eucharistic Presence and Conversion in Late Thirteenth-Century Franciscan Thought (Volume 74, "Transactions of the American Philosophical Society" series), American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia, PA), 1984.
Petrus Ioannis Olivi's Quaestio de Usu Paupere and Tractatus de Usu Paupere, Leonardo Olschki (Florence, Italy), 1992.
Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom: A Reading of the Apocalypse Commentary, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1993.
Pierre de Jean Olieu: Franciscain Persécuté, Editions Universitairs de Friburg (Friburg, Switzerland), 1997.
The Spiritual Franciscans: From Protest to Persecution in the Century after Saint Francis, Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA), 2001.
Contributor to books, including Nuns, Monks, and Friars in Mediaeval Society, Press of the University of the South (Sewanee, TN), 1989; The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1992; and Medieval Western Views of Islam, Garland Press (New York NY), 1996; contributor to journals, including Franciscan Studies, Church History, and Journal of Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies.
SIDELIGHTS: Historian David Burr's books focus on church history during the Medieval period. His The Persecution of Peter Olivi, is an introduction to the controversial doctrines of the Franciscan friar who lived from c. 1247 to 1298. Olivi produced more than sixty works in his lifetime, many of which he was forced to defend. Morton W. Bloomfield wrote in Speculum that "what Olivi taught about poverty, history, the divine essence, and the sacraments, especially marriage and baptism—all those subjects which antagonized many of his contemporaries and near-contemporaries (and fascinated some of them, particularly in his province of Narbonne)—we may find clearly, modestly, and objectively analyzed here by Burr. He has read his texts well and quotes generously from them."
Delno C. West, who reviewed the book in American Historical Review, said that Burr "sees Olivi as a true intellectual who tried to bring together the tenets of St. Francis with his own vast perception and knowledge. Thus, to understand Olivi, one must peer into his many-sided mind. Burr devotes his best chapters to this intricacy of thought by analyzing Olivi's positions on theology, philosophy, poverty, and eschatology."
Dominic V. Monti noted in Church History that in Eucharistic Presence and Conversion in Late Thirteenth-Century Franciscan Thought, Burr studies "the way Franciscan theologians from Bonaventure to John Duns Scotus resolved the question of the dependence of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist on the conversion of the elements of bread and wine into his body and blood." Rega Wood asserted in American Historical Review that "Burr's work shows the kind of contribution a historian, thoroughly versed in scholastic theology, can make."
Olivi and Franciscan Poverty: The Origins of the "Usus Pauper" Controversy is Burr's history of the Franciscan poverty controversy from 1279 to 1299, with a focus on Olivi, who embraced the rejection of material goods in the Franciscan vows. His position was so controversial that forty years later, in 1318, four friars were burned at the stake in Marseilles, France, for refusing to renounce their vows of poverty, although twenty-one of their fellows did, and lived. Others were persecuted for the vow that Olivi perceived to be the beginning of an adventure.
Kevin Madigan wrote in the Journal of Religion that Olivi's opponents in the church did not attack him only "because they were bent on the enjoyment of worldly pleasures. Instead, they feared that his inability to specify the exact requirements of poor use would cause them always to wonder whether they were violating their vows (by, e.g., enjoying the kind of meals available to those in power) and, therefore committing mortal sin."
Wood called Olivi and Franciscan Poverty "a fully developed portrait of Olivi. Burr points to the fact that Olivi had a very sophisticated understanding of contemporary business practice and economic theory. He shows how much Olivi had in common with his major opponents. Finally, Burr discusses in detail the harsh attitude Olivi displayed when writing about those drawn into error in 1295 on account of zeal for poverty."
R. H. Hilton said in English Historical Review that Burr "in his fair-minded and tenacious way has mastered every important source, including the manuscript of Olivi's treatise on the usus pauper and some of his questions on evangelical perfection, and put the scholastic debate side by side with papal politics, the Franciscan generalate, and the everyday life of the order."
Burr's Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom: A Reading of the Apocalypse Commentary is the first complete English-language study of Olivi's commentary on the Book of Revelation, which he completed just before his death, and for which he was censured posthumously by his order in 1319, and by Pope John XXII in 1326. Thomas Turley, who reviewed the volume in the Catholic Historical Review, noted that in discussing the condemnation in the final three chapters, Burr "displays great control of the sources for this complex issue. He demonstrates that the condemnation was not based upon a misunderstanding of Olivi's views, as is often claimed. The curial theologians who condemned Olivi clearly comprehended what they rejected: his vision of Francis as an apocalyptic figure heralding a new age and his identification of the Franciscan rule with the highest perfection taught by Christ to the apostles."
"Burr's review of Olivi's positions in the Apocalypse commentary is graced not only by clarity, felicitous prose, and apposite quotation but by frequent comparisons that demarcate Olivi's debts and bold originality," commented Robert E. Lerner in Speculum. "In keeping with the weightiness of the subject matter, this is Burr's best work so far."
With The Spiritual Franciscans: From Protest to Persecution in the Century after Saint Francis Burr provides a broad history of the Spirituals and their protest movement within the Franciscan order. Francis of Assisi died in 1226, before Olivi was born, and his followers lived according to the rule that had received papal approval in 1223: a vow of poverty and obedience Francis felt necessary was to follow in the footsteps of Christ. He also considered learning to be a threat to humility. But church and secular leaders enlisted the first generations of mendicants to serve in positions that required education, and within one generation after Francis's death, Franciscans were serving as bishops, archbishops, and cardinals, and eventually one became pope. This trend divided those who wished to follow the precepts of Francis and those who were willing to compromise, all of which led to the heretical movement that saw friars burned at the stake.
Derk Visser wrote in Utopian Studies that Burr "ably deals with the objectives of the Spirituals and the complexities of their development as a rebellious movement. It is also a very useful contribution to our understanding of the remarkable vitality of Christian idealism among the faithful in the face of the obstacles and condemnations by the hierarchy." Lerner wrote in the Times Literary Supplement that in this study of the Spirituals, Burr "offers measured reflectiveness, a wry style, and a disarming wit."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, December, 1977, Delno C. West, review of The Persecution of Peter Olivi, pp. 1230-1231; June, 1985, Rega Wood, review of Eucharistic Presence and Conversion in Late Thirteenth-Century Franciscan Thought, pp. 664-665; February, 1991, Rega Wood, review of Olivi and Franciscan Poverty: The Origins of the "Usus Pauper" Controversy, pp. 153-154.
Catholic Historical Review, July, 1995, Thomas Turley, review of Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom: A Reading of the Apocalypse Commentary, p. 435; October, 1996, Thomas Turley, review of Olivi and Franciscan Poverty, p. 692.
Church History, June, 1977, E. Randolph Daniel, review of The Persecution of Peter Olivi, pp. 240-241; September, 1986, Dominic V. Monti, review of Eucharistic Presence and Conversion in Late Thirteenth-Century Franciscan Thought, pp. 367-368; September, 1991, E. Randolph Daniel, review of Olivi and Franciscan Poverty, p. 377; September, 1996, Kevin Madigan, review of Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom, p. 462.
English Historical Review, January, 1993, R. H. Hilton, review of Olivi and Franciscan Poverty, p. 174; June, 1996, Gordon Leff, review of Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom, p. 682.
History, July, 1996, Christoph T. Maier, review of Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom, p. 434; summer, 2002, Duane J. Osheim, review of The Spiritual Franciscans: From Protest to Persecution in the Century after Saint Francis, p. 169.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, January, 1992, Peter Biller, review of Olivi and Franciscan Poverty, p. 123; July, 1995, Marjorie Reeves, review of Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom, p. 513.
Journal of Religion, January, 1991, Kevin Madigan, review of Olivi and Franciscan Poverty, pp. 97-98.
Speculum, April, 1978, Morton W. Bloomfield, review of The Persecution of Peter Olivi, pp. 344-345; October, 1985, Girard J. Etzkorn, review of Eucharistic Presence and Conversion in Late Thirteenth-Century Franciscan Thought, pp. 955-956; July, 1995, Robert E. Lerner, review of Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom, pp. 594-596.
Times Literary Supplement, May 24, 2002, Robert E. Lerner, review of The Spiritual Franciscans, p. 31.
Utopian Studies, winter, 2002, Derk Visser, review of The Spiritual Franciscans, p. 180.*