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Essays In Honour Of Oliver Pickering

This volume gathers the contributions of senior and junior scholars—all indebted to the pathbreaking work of Derek Pearsall—to showcase new research prompted by his rich and ongoing legacy as a literary critic, editor, and seminal founder of Middle English manuscript studies. The contributors aim both to honor Pearsall’s work in the field he established and to introduce the complexities of interdisciplinary manuscript studies to students already familiar with medieval literature.

The contributors explore a range of issues, from the study of medieval literary manuscripts to the history of medieval books, libraries, literacy, censorship, and the social classes who used the books and manuscripts—nobles, children, schoolmasters, priests, merchants, and more. In addressing reading practices, essays provide a wealth of information on marginal commentaries, images and interpretive methods, international transmission, and early print and editorial methods.

Contributors: Sarah Baechle, Julia Boffey, Peter Brown, Katie Ann-Marie Bugyis, Christopher Cannon, A. I. Doyle, Martha W. Driver, Siân Echard, Nicole Eddy, A. S. G. Edwards, Hilary E. Fox, Karrie Fuller, Maura Giles-Watson, Phillipa Hardman, Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, Jill Mann, William Marx, Sarah McNamer, Carol M. Meale, Linne Mooney, Melinda Nielsen, Theresa O’Byrne, Stephen Partridge, Oliver Pickering, Susan Powell, Elizabeth Scala, A. C. Spearing, John J. Thompson, Edward Wheatley, Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Hannah Zdansky, Nicolette Zeeman.

“New Directions in Medieval Manuscript Studies and Reading Practices marks the heritage of the distinguished scholar Derek Pearsall while highlighting his continuing influence on medieval manuscript studies. Buoyed by fine work of senior scholars, the collection also introduces readers to stimulating work by an upcoming generation of more recent practitioners, all of whom address crucial issues in the field: the particulars of individual manuscripts, including scribal practice, marginal commentary, and audience reception. The result is a fine collection at once canonical in some respects and innovative in others." — Paul H. Strohm, Anna S. Garbedian Professor Emeritus of the Humanities, Columbia University

ISBN: 978-0-268-03327-9
576 pages
Publication Year: 2014

Preaching the Word in Manuscript and Print, the eleventh volume in Brepols’s Sermo series, is dedicated to Susan Powell, best known for her analysis and edition of John Mirk’s Festial (Oxford, 2009). The focus of the volume, as the editors Martha Driver and Veronica O’Mara declare in their introduction, is “on Middle English and Latin material in prose and verse in late medieval England” and “how homilists and teachers in the Middle Ages preached the work of God in its widest possible sense” (p. 1). Their focus allows the contributors to examine works related to preaching in general, not just sermons, and to consider the diversity of languages and media in which sermons and works of religious instruction reside. The editors have organized the contributions into twelve “Studies” and three “Texts,” and a list of publications by Powell. Their essays add to a growing body of scholarship on English preaching, such as H. Leith Spencer’s English Preaching in the Late Middle Ages (Oxford, 1993), Alan Fletcher’s Late Medieval Popular Preaching (Turnhout, 2009), Holly Johnson’s The Grammar of Good Friday (Turnhout, 2012), and the many works by Siegfried Wenzel.

Derek Pearsall opens the volume with an examination of the strengths and weaknesses of G. R. Owst, the scholar whose works, Preaching in Medieval England (Cambridge, UK, 1926) and Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England (Cambridge, UK, 1933), opened up the field of medieval English sermons. Pearsall seeks to explain how Owst’s original scholarship, which quoted from several important manuscripts, and which featured assiduous attention to detail and idiomatic translations from Latin into English, could co-exist with “such embarrassing banality … such commonplaceness of mind—and with such resentment of the academic world?” (p. 24). The answer is Owst’s isolation as an outsider in the academic world and the baneful influence of Owst’s mentor, G. G. Coulton, who had “a hostile and narrowly Protestant view of the established Church of the Middle Ages” (p. 2).

Other essays by well-known authorities in the fields of preaching and of Middle English include a study by Driver of the depiction of preachers in manuscript and print in the late-medieval and early Tudor periods, works on the transmission of devotional texts by Joseph Gwara and of Middle English sermon verse by Julia Boffey, and pieces about the punctuation and copying of sermon literature by Jeremy Smith and Stephen Morrison. Morrison’s essay reminds readers that manuscript texts are usually not fixed and that scribes, as men of letters in their own times, had a feel for language that sometimes caused them to alter the texts of the works they were copying (p. 118). Essays by Margaret Connolly and R. N. Swanson show the mutual dependence of sermon literature and works of devotional instruction, as well as the rewards and difficulties of working with manuscript miscellanies, a genre with which medieval scholars have been grappling increasingly in the last twenty [End Page 162] years. Anne Hudson’s essay on the manuscripts of John Wyclif’s Latin sermons shows that “the copy made far from the proven place of origination can have better readings than that made close to the author’s home” (p. 59). A piece by Vincent Gillespie examines the lections in the Latin Martiloge of the Syon Brethren, noting how they set an exceptionally high standard for clerical life, whereas essays by William Marx and John J. Thompson demonstrate how texts originally intended for oral presentation could be adapted for private, devotional use.

The three edited texts include an edition and study by Oliver Pickering of the text for All Souls’ Day from the South English Legendary; extracts from the Syon Pardon Sermon, by Kari Anne Rand; as well as an edition of the “Boy Bishop” sermon, in addition to an examination of changing editorial attitudes, by...

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