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Latin and Vernacular Homilies of Anglo-Saxon England: Preaching and Perceptions of Society
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.
2013 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The advances in the study of homiletic writing of Anglo-Saxon England in the past few decades have made it possible to situate many seemingly formulaic and conventional texts in their specific historical contexts, and to perceive in them certain participation in and commentary on the contemporary social and political situation. This pertains especially to homilies written in Old English – the long-term primary interest of Anglo-Saxon scholarship – which may at times seem to overshadow the coexistent Latin culture. This paper pays attention to this division and explores both Latin and vernacular homiletic writing from the perspective of preaching and social perception. It examines the features of Latin and Old English as languages of teaching, and then discusses Archbishop Wulfstan’s (ca. 950-1023) Latin sermons as a case study, especially those in one of his own ‘Commonplace Books’, Copenhagen Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. Kgs. Sam. 1595. From the outset, the linguistic division appears to have many fundamental implications for both composition and delivery: the Latin sermons and homilies were for the most part meant to be used in the monastic office, whereas the vernacular ones are thought to have served the needs of lay preaching or private devotion. In terms of social perception, therefore, preaching on social order, vices and virtues, or rules and responsibilities would have found its audiences in different social categories, at least in theory. In practice, the boundaries between these categories were much more fluid, and the language of a text in itself does not always denote a certain audience. The act of preaching as a potentially infuential type of medium in circulating ideas and conceptions on social order makes the two corpora essential sources for studying social ideas, their implementation and authorization. Consequently, the paper contributes to the discussion of both oral and literary as well as the Latin and vernacular communication in the Middle Ages.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Homiletic writing, Latin, Old English, Anglo-Saxon literature, Wulfstan of York, Copenhagen GKS 1595
National Category
History Languages and Literature History of Religions
Research subject
History; History of Religion; Literature
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-99538OAI: diva2:687215
Indigenous Ideas and Foreign Influences: Interactions among Oral and Literary, Latin and Vernacular Cultures in Medieval and Early Modern Northern Europe, Helsinki, September 26-27, 2013.
Available from: 2014-01-13 Created: 2014-01-13 Last updated: 2014-01-13

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