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Saints and Scholars

Saints and Scholars: New Perspectives on Anglo-Saxon Literature and Culture in Honour of Hugh Magennis

edited by Stuart McWilliams
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 290
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  • Book Info
    Saints and Scholars
    Book Description:

    Anglo-Saxon literature and culture, and their subsequent appropriations, unite the essays collected here. They offer fresh and exciting perspectives on a variety of issues, from gender to religion and the afterlives of Old English texts, from reconsiderations of neglected works to reflections on the place of Anglo-Saxon in the classroom. As is appropriate, they draw especially on Hugh Magennis' own interests in hagiography and issues of community and reception. Taken together, they provide a "state of the discipline" account of the present, and future, of Anglo-Saxon studies. The volume also includes contributions from the leading Irish poets Ciaran Carson and Medbh McGuckian. Dr Stuart McWilliams is a Newby Trust Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh. Contributors: Ciaran Carson, Mary Clayton, Ivan Herbison, Joyce Hill, Malcolm Godden, Chris Jones, Christina Lee, MedbhMcGuckian, Stuart McWilliams, Juliet Mullins, Elisabeth Okasha, Jane Roberts, Donald Scragg, Mary Swan, John Thompson, Elaine Treharne, Robert Upchurch, Gordon Whatley, Jonathan Wilcox.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-871-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)
    Stuart McWilliams

    If Old English is truly ‘old’, then no one told Hugh Magennis. After all, Hugh’s highly distinguished career has been built on a conviction – clearly evinced in his research and teaching – that Old English has never lost its vitality. I was fortunate enough to absorb this notion from Hugh as an undergraduate at Queen’s University, Belfast, where he taught Anglo-Saxon literature and culture alongside Ivan Herbison for many years, and I subsequently benefited from his careful and generous supervision during my doctoral degree. These experiences, together with the research Hugh has presented in his many seminars and publications, have demonstrated...

  6. I. Hagiography and the Homiletic Tradition

    • 1 A Note on the Sensational Old English Life of St Margaret
      (pp. 5-13)
      Elaine Treharne

      The Life of St Margaret in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 303 is one of a number of English texts that can be dated to the post-Conquest period, attesting to the vitality of English even after the trauma of Hastings, and the cultural and political disruption caused by the process of that Conquest.¹ The extensive hagiographic and homiletic manuscript is localised to the Benedictine cathedral of St Andrews, Rochester, and is datable to c. 1150.² The manuscript is not only the product of that monastic setting, but was also probably originally intended for use within that setting itself. That use,...

    • 2 A Place to Weep: Joseph in the Beer-Room and Anglo-Saxon Gestures of Emotion
      (pp. 14-32)
      Jonathan Wilcox

      Where do Anglo-Saxon men go when they want to have a little weep, away from the public eye? Or, more precisely, where would an Anglo-Saxon audience imagine a man of power going when he wanted to conceal his crying? The question touches on some interesting issues for understanding Anglo-Saxon culture. Did real men cry in Anglo-Saxon England? What was the value of tears? Are there constraints of gender and class in displaying emotion? How is the public/private division imagined? Hugh Magennis has looked at the body’s emotional expression through laughter in Anglo-Saxon literature;¹ this essay in his honour will examine...

    • 3 Aldhelm’s Choice of Saints for his Prose De Virginitate
      (pp. 33-53)
      Juliet Mullins

      The writings of Aldhelm of Malmesbury (c.639–709) provide some of the earliest evidence for hagiographical activity in Anglo-Saxon England. Preceding his more famous contemporary, the Venerable Bede, by a generation, he is thought to have been born in Wessex within a decade of the conversion of that region to Christianity, quite possibly into the West Saxon royal family that played such an instrumental role in the promotion of the new faith.¹ He enjoyed a career that brought him into contact with some of the most prominent churchmen of his day and bore witness to some of the most important...

    • 4 Shepherding the Shepherds in the Ways of Pastoral Care: Ælfric and Cambridge University Library, MS Gg.3.28
      (pp. 54-74)
      Robert K. Upchurch

      It seems fitting in a festschrift entitled Saints and Scholars to begin by placing Professor Magennis in the long line of lareowas (‘teachers’) stretching back to and beyond Ælfric to the leorningcnihtas (‘disciples’) themselves. Having explained the symbolism of the five loaves, two fish, and great multitude of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, Ælfric says of the leftovers collected by the disciples:

      Ða lafe þæs gereordes þæt sint þa deopnyssa þære lare. þe woruldmenn understandan. ne magon; þa scolon þa lareowas gegadrian. þæt he ne losian and healdan on heora fætelsum; þæt is on heora heortum and habban æfre...

    • 5 ‘Consider Lazarus’: A Context for Vercelli Homily VII
      (pp. 75-86)
      Jane Roberts

      The closing section of Vercelli Homily VII (lines 84–118) is directed towards the need for moderation in eating and drinking.¹ Here, in the words of Hugh Magennis, the homily asserts the ‘necessity and goodness of food, as opposed to overindulgence’, an observation tucked away in a footnote in his Anglo-Saxon Appetites.² The context in which this footnote arises is, interestingly, a discussion of feasting and drinking as ‘among the worldly things that distract people from the great realities of death and judgement’, and Magennis points out that for ‘Gregory and other homilists, the exemplum of Dives (Luke XVI. 19...

    • 6 More than a Female Joseph: The Sources of the Late-Fifth-Century Passio Sanctae Eugeniae
      (pp. 87-111)
      E. Gordon Whatley

      A mong the most successful and long-lasting of Christian literary genres to emerge in late Antiquity was the passio (or acta or gesta ) narrating a martyr’s arrest, interrogation, suffering and execution. A handful of such works – including the Passions of St Perpetua and St Felicity, Bishop Polycarp, and the Martyrs of Lyon, along with the so-called Proconsular Acts of St Cyprian, to name the best known¹ – are believed to have been composed during the age of persecution itself, the first three centuries ad, by eye-witnesses or by others with access to trial records. These few early passiones form a...

    • 7 Ælfric, Leofric and In Natale Plurimorum Apostolorum
      (pp. 112-122)
      Joyce Hill

      As part of his campaign to develop a library that met his essentially continental standards of what was appropriate for a bishop, Leofric, who held the see of Devon from 1046 to 1072, first at Crediton and then, from 1050, at Exeter, made a number of very careful additions to an assemblage of regulatory materials in English that had their origins in early-eleventh-century Worcester. These additions, also in English, reveal his appreciation of the purpose of the original manuscript materials, which were texts useful in exercising episcopal responsibilities. If, as is highly likely, this original core of vernacular texts was...

  7. II. Aspects of Community and Consumption

    • 8 Stories from the Court of King Alfred
      (pp. 123-140)
      Malcolm Godden

      Three key Alfredian texts were issued in or around the year 893: Asser’s Life of King Alfred, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and the prose preface to the Old English Pastoral Care.¹ Together the three texts provide extensive testimony about King Alfred as ruler, warleader, saint, scholar and educator, and from at least the twelfth century historians were combining those three texts and reconciling their differences in order to develop a comprehensive account of the king. But how much of this testimony is fact and how much myth or spin has always been difficult to tell. The Alfredian myth had begun already...

    • 9 De Duodecim Abusiuis, Lordship and Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England
      (pp. 141-163)
      Mary Clayton

      De Duodecim Abusiuis , a Latin text written in Ireland in the seventh century, enumerates and describes what its author saw as the twelve abuses by which the whole of humanity is deceived and iustitia is suffocated;¹ this text, in particular its ninth abuse, was, as Patrick Wormald has said, ‘one of the most profoundly influential formulations of Christian political obligation in the entire Middle Ages’.² In England, as on the Continent, the ninth abuse, the unjust king, provided a succession of authors with a means of talking about and to kings and it was one of the cornerstones of...

    • 10 Reluctant Appetites: Anglo-Saxon Attitudes towards Fasting
      (pp. 164-186)
      Christina Lee

      Food in literature is never just sustenance, but carries a raft of cultural meaning. It is as a result of Hugh Magennis’s prolific work on feasting and consumption in Old English literature and related Germanic texts that we understand the rich symbolism of food and drink in the culture of the Anglo-Saxons. I first met Hugh at the Leeds Medieval Congress as a fledging academic and he has been a most kind and supportive mentor over the years. Hugh in his meticulous and scholarly manner has left little that can be added to the topic of eating or drinking in...

    • 11 A Note on the Function of the Inscribed Strip from the Staffordshire Hoard
      (pp. 187-194)
      Elisabeth Okasha

      This short paper is offered to Hugh as a mark of great respect for his work as an Anglo-Saxon scholar over many years. Hugh’s interests have covered many aspects of the literature and culture of Anglo-Saxon England and I have no doubt that all those working on the Staffordshire hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver will greatly benefit from his interest in it. As is now well known, amongst the many highly decorated gold and silver objects found in 2009 in the hoard, there is only one that is inscribed. This is a thin strip of gold that contains a...

    • 12 The Shining of the Sun in the Twelve Nights of Christmas
      (pp. 195-212)
      Marilina Cesario

      A significant corpus of Anglo-Saxon prognostics survives in various eleventh-and twelfth-century manuscripts. Until recently these texts have been erroneously and superficially associated with magic and pagan worship, without regard to the cultural context of the manuscripts which contain them.¹ Scholars have shown a deeper interest in more obviously mainstream monastic works such as homilies and saints’ lives, on the assumption that prognostics were not part of that mainstream religious culture of the period.

      Another feature which has deterred scholars from sustained engagement with this material is its diversity. It comprises a miscellaneous assortment of texts both in Latin and English,...

    • 13 Sin and Laughter in Late Anglo-Saxon England: The Case of Old English (h)leahtor
      (pp. 213-223)
      Donald Scragg

      Forty years ago I published an essay called ‘Initial h in Old English’.¹ The title was a misnomer, because I dealt only with initial h before vowels, whereas in Old English initial h also occurs before consonants. I did indicate, however, that a later essay would deal with consonantal groups, and although the sequel has never been written, this paper, dedicated to an acknowledged Ælfric scholar, will touch on one aspect of h in that position, particularly in writings by that consummate writer of Old English prose.

      The difference between initial h before a vowel in English and one before...

    • 14 Marginal Activity? Post-Conquest Old English Readers and their Notes
      (pp. 224-233)
      Mary Swan

      The textual traditions of Anglo-Saxon England extend well beyond the Norman Conquest. Old English texts were copied into hundreds of manuscripts from 1060 to the early thirteenth century, and marginal annotations were made to many of them. This phenomenon is striking for two reasons: firstly, the continuing rewriting of Old English for such a long time after the Norman Conquest, and in such quantity, testifies to both continuity and change; secondly, annotation is an explicit sign of the use of these manuscripts, and so reinforces our growing understanding of post-Conquest Old English as a living tradition.

      From 2005 to 2010,...

  8. III. Reflections on Old English Scholarship

    • 15 Old English for Non-specialists in the Nineteenth Century: A Road not Taken
      (pp. 234-251)
      Chris Jones

      While histories of the discipline of Anglo-Saxon studies have served us well in presenting a record of the progress of Anglo-Saxon scholarship, detailing philological, palaeographical and editorial advances made from the Reformation until the present day, the teaching of Anglo-Saxon studies is still a relatively neglected aspect of the history of the discipline.¹ This is partly because only scarce evidence survives from universities in terms of syllabi, set texts, examination questions and so on from before the twentieth century (future historians of the discipline will enjoy an embarrassment of riches with all the paperwork detailing learning outcomes and lesson plans...

    • 16 The Beginnings of English Poetry: Philological and Textual Challenges for the Creative Imagination
      (pp. 252-260)
      John J. Thompson and Ivan Herbison

      Ond eac swelce monige oðre æfter him in Ongelþeode ongunnon æfæste leoð wyrcan; ac nænig hwæðre him þæt gelice don meahte, for þon he nales from monnum ne þurh mon gelæred wæs, þæt he þone leoðcræft leornade, ac he wæs godcundlice gefultumed ond þurh Godes gife þone songcræft onfeng.¹

      And also, similarly, after him, many others among the English began to compose pious poems; but, however, none of them was able to do it like him, because he was not taught the poetic skill that he learned from men or by anyone at all, but he was divinely aided and...

  9. POEMS

    • The Honey Vision
      (pp. 261-261)

      Her left hand that was agile with temporal intervals

      Limpingly withdraws, ever weaker, now untouchable.

      Her life-breath forms a honeycomb in her mouth

      As if breathing in but never out, I hear her breathless

      Breast panting, though no distance makes her weary.

      There it would be, a sunbeam settling so fiercely

      On her face, it could only have come from within.

      Her children absorb into her, she dissolves into herself,

      Unwintry as the very look of spring coming

      Intentionally lost along the wooded road.

      I thought even the dust could crush her bird dress

      In walnut and rosewood case, to...

    • The Scholar
      (pp. 262-262)
      Ciaran Carson

      My hand is tired with writing out,

      my admirable nib not thick;

      slender-beaked, my pen jets forth

      a stream of beetle-coloured ink.

      Deep the draught of wisdom coursing

      from my calligraphic hand,

      flowing blackly on the page

      in spiky holly lines of ink.

      Unceasingly my little pen

      inscribes a world of shining books,

      enriching those who love to read,

      and tiring out this hand that writes.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -...

    • Hugh Magennis: A Bibliography
      (pp. 263-272)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 273-279)
    (pp. 280-280)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-281)