A tract is a short written work, usually of a political or religious nature.
The word currently usually refers to a small pamphlet, almost always of a religious nature. These pamphlets are left in public places, usually, by Christian evangelists. Jack Chick is a well known author of tracts; his are remembered for their vivid cartoon images and vehement opinions.
Another widely circulated religious tract calls itself The Four Spiritual Laws; this text originated with the Campus Crusade for Christ, a Protestant evangelical organization, and was first written by its founder Bill Bright.
Tracts could at one time be much longer discourses than the leaflets usually given the name today suggest. The Oxford Movement is also known as Tractarianism, after the publication in the 1830s and 1840s of a series of religious essays collectively called Tracts for the Times. These tracts were written by a group of Church of England clergy including John Henry Newman, John Keble, Henry Edward Manning, and Edward Pusey. These tracts were in fact lengthy theological discourses that sought to establish the continuity between the Church of England and the patristic period of church history. They had a vast influence on Anglo-Catholicism, but were far longer and more learned works than the name tract currently suggests.
A tract is also a bundle of nerve fibers following a path through the brain.
The Tract is also a portion of the Roman Catholic liturgy, a song of sorrow substituting for the Alleluia during the season of Lent.
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04