Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Preaching the Converted

Preaching the Converted: The Style and Rhetoric of the Vercelli Book Homilies

  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Preaching the Converted
    Book Description:

    Preaching the Convertedprovides a sustained literary analysis of The Vercelli Book?s prose homilies and demonstrates that they employ rhetorical techniques commonly associated with vernacular verse.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8885-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. List of Manuscripts Cited According to Scragg’s Sigla
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. List of Tables
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Preface
    (pp. xix-2)
  8. 1 Locating the Vercelli Homilies: Their Place in the Book, and the Book in Its Place
    (pp. 3-29)

    The so-called Vercelli Book (Vercelli, Biblioteca Capitolare CXVII) comprises only 135 folios,¹ and yet it contains one of the most important collections of Old English poetry and anonymous prose that survives.² Since detailed physical descriptions of the manuscript are provided elsewhere, a summary will serve to give an impression of its current condition, and will provide a basis for further comment about the potential use, purpose, and audience for the collection. The manuscript, though rather plain in aspect (at least by comparison with such lavish productions as the Lindisfarne Gospels, or the more contemporary, and possibly closer geographically, Junius manuscript),³...

  9. 2 Reinventing the Past: Originality and the Vercelli Homilies
    (pp. 30-62)

    Since the ensuing chapters discuss the contents of the manuscript in degrees of detail, a short summary is offered here. The collection itself contains six religious poems that are interspersed between twenty-three prose pieces. The poems contained in the manuscript are as follows:Andreas(fols. 29v–52v),Fates of the Apostles(fols. 52v–54r),Soul and Body I(fols. 101v–103v),Homiletic Fragment I(fol. 104rv),Dream of the Rood(fols. 104v–106r), andElene(fols. 121r–133v). This assortment of verse is remarkable for several reasons. As possibly the earliest extant collection of vernacular poetry, the Vercelli poems are...

  10. 3 Seeing Double: The Repetition of Themes and Text in the Vercelli Book
    (pp. 63-105)

    It has become a commonplace to think about the texts in the Vercelli Book as having been selected, organized, and presented in no particular order, and with no particular plan. The most recent editor of the homilies, Donald G. Scragg, has argued that ‘it is probable that whoever assembled the collection had no preconceived idea of what items he would include and therefore no overall design for his book.’¹ A principal factor in Scragg’s assessment has been the repetition of items set for the same fast and feast days, so that in contrast to the traditional homiliary (where we might...

  11. 4 ‘Where Are They Now?’: The Sources and Techniques of Adaptation and Compilation in the Vercelli Book
    (pp. 106-139)

    Writing at the end of the ninth century in the preface to his translation of Augustine’sSoliloquies, the author generally purported to be King Alfred the Great fashions a vivid and celebrated image that explains his perceived role not simply as a translator, but as a transformer of inherited texts.¹ In an elaborate conceit, Alfred (if indeed it is he) describes the process as being much like that of a builder constructing a house.² He writes:³

    Gaderode me þonne kigclas and stuþansceaftas, and lohsceaftas and hylfa to ælcum þara tola þe ic mid wircan cuðe, and bohtimbru and bolttimbru, and,...

  12. 5 The ‘Body and Soul’ of the Vercelli Book: The Heart of the Corpus
    (pp. 140-178)

    It is perhaps to be expected that in a manuscript containing such a broad spectrum of materials associated with Judgment Day, and with such a marked emphasis on the importance of atonement and reform, themes relating to the soul and body feature prominently. Looking broadly at just those prose texts contained in the Vercelli manuscript, it is possible to locate at least eighteen different passages in eight different Vercelli homilies that address various aspects of the nature and condition of the human body and soul, and the fate of both entities after death.¹ Several of the homilies demonstrate a sustained...

  13. 6 ‘For the Sake of Beauty and Utility’: The Place of Figurative Language in the Vercelli Homilies
    (pp. 179-224)

    In the introduction to chapter 4, we encountered a well-known image derived from the Old EnglishPrologueto Augustine’sSoliloquies, in which the author (perhaps King Alfred the Great himself) compared the work of translation and source-gathering to the process of assembling and building a home. As the previous two chapters demonstrated, this process of foraging, combining, and fabricating applies well to the art of the homilist. In the Vercelli homilies themselves, we find similar passages illuminating the role of teachers and spiritual advisers, and, by extension, the function of homilists and preachers. One such simile appears in Vercelli XIX.77...

  14. 7 At a Crossroads: Generic Ambiguity in the Guthlac Narrative of the Vercelli Book
    (pp. 225-268)

    The whole notion of genre in relation to Old English literature is highly vexed. For Anglo-Saxon studies, as for that of any period, the problem has partially to do with the distorting historicizing lens through which we view these texts. As Joyce Hill argues, ‘What we think we understand as a stable, objectifiable text is in reality something quite fluid, since it is a text which is “rewritten” by its various readers in successive generations in ways determined by prevailing ideologies.’¹ But in thinking about Old English texts, there is an even more pressing difficulty at hand, in that there...

  15. 8 Conclusion: Rhetorical Models and Modes of Style
    (pp. 269-278)

    One aim of this study has been to examine the style and rhetoric of selected Vercelli homilies at various levels of diction, ranging from specific examples of sound-play, wordplay, and other kinds of repetition within individual texts in the Vercelli Book, to similar kinds of parallels linking texts widely dispersed in the manuscript. Within this framework, the discussion has focused on the potentially dual influence of native poetics and imported rhetorical and stylistic devices. In the case of the latter, ‘foreign’ influences have been most fully explored with respect to the incorporation of Latin literary devices, though others have been...

  16. Appendix 1: The Contents of the Vercelli Homilies and Relevant Variant Texts (as identified by Scragg)
    (pp. 280-286)
  17. Appendix 2: Divisions in the Vercelli Books According to Scragg (by Exemplar) and Sisam (by Quire)
    (pp. 287-294)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 295-324)
  19. General Index
    (pp. 325-344)
  20. Index of Passages Cited
    (pp. 345-348)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 349-349)