A Companion to Middle English Hagiography by Sarah Salih

By Sarah Salih

The saints have been the superheroes and the celebs of medieval England, bridging the distance among heaven and earth, the dwelling and the useless. an enormous physique of literature developed through the heart a while to make sure that all people, from kings to peasants, knew the tales of the lives, deaths and afterlives of the saints. even though, regardless of its recognition and ubiquity, the style of the Saint's lifestyles has till lately been little studied. This assortment introduces the canon of center English hagiography; areas it within the context of the cults of saints; analyses key subject matters inside hagiographic narrative, together with gender, strength, violence and background; and, eventually, indicates how hagiographic issues survived the Reformation. total it deals either details for these coming to the style for the 1st time, and issues ahead to new developments in examine.

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A few lines in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle (c. 890) and Asser’s Life of Alfred (893), telling us briefly of the death of the king, comprise all the genuinely contemporary information that exists, but this was evidently no bar to celebrating him as a both a royal and a martyr saint. 29 This type of oral culture may well have underlain much of the written hagiography which we now have, and again needs to be understood as part of the context of both composition and reception of legends. Whilst Edmund was undoubtedly a genuine historical character, the reality of his life is difficult to discern within the complex web of myth that built up around him, much of it designed to give echoes of other saints’ stories, and the bare facts of his death at the hands of Vikings were embroidered with romantic idiom to put the king in the best light possible.

Bell, Saints and 122 123 124 125 Society: The Two Worlds of Latin Christendom, 1000–1700 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982); Saints of Europe: Studies towards a Survey of Cults and Culture, ed. Graham Jones (Donington: Tyas, 2003). Such as Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987); Richard Kieckhefer, Unquiet Souls: Fourteenth Century Saints and their Religious Milieu (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984).

Scholarship Recent scholarship has found it necessary to rehabilitate hagiography. The genre was formerly dismissed as too crude and too stereotypical to be truly artistic or historically informative. Much Middle English hagiography was edited in the late nineteenth century, by Carl Horstmann and by contributors to the Early English Texts Society, but at that period interest in the genre was primarily philological and it was not uncommon for owners and editors to make disparaging remarks on its content.

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