Dissertation Work

Things have progressed to the point where I’ve been able to designate some brain cycles to dissertation work again. (I’ve had it–it *will* be finished by the end of the summer if it kills me. So far the odds are 50-50.)

Whereas before I started with more methodological stuff, I’ve dived into Æ’s sermons directly. What this has helped me see is that some of the stuff I pruned out before absolutely has to be put back into my re-formed chapters 2 and 3. Fr. Director thought that some of my work on patristic homilies was smoke-chasing; I’ve determined that it’s completely critical to the project.

Traditionally, early medieval homileticians have been accused of simple plagiarism. Indeed, Henri De Lubac’s only comment on Æ

is that he is a plagiarist of Gregory’s work. Rather, my work on the patristic material identifies not simply content but method and the purpose that derives from the method. What this let me do is to look at Æ’s sermons and to show that while, yes, he is recycling some content, he is using it in a very different way and with its own quite distinct method that throws light on what an early medieval preacher thought that he was creating.

My use of the Breviary has also been helpful. I now know I need to revisit some of my earlier liturgical work and look for some new evidence in different places.

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6 Responses to Dissertation Work

  1. Adam says:

    Your issue with plagiarism is certainly not new. It is something that strikes every modern student of Aelfric. When I was doing my dissertation on the AS homilies in the early 70’s, the general take was that they had a different approach to text appropriation than we do. Aelfric wrote in a context of participation in a textual tradition — the homiliary tradition. It is clear to me now that his quotations and paraphrases and references worked on several levels. To the discerning, his inteleectual peers, it would be clear that the homilist had done his preparatory work and consulted the appropriate sources. To those who had drunk from the stream but not as deeply, they would be reminded of patristic themes they had studied. To the uninstructed they would have functioned as useful ideas for instruction to the audience, whether monastic (more likely) or lay.

    To me the more interesting question is the use to which Aelfric’s sermons were put. Were they really for monastic use? Were they exemplars kept at central points to aid the busy clergy in their sermon preparation? Or were they the 11th century equivalent of the lay readers’ sermons that the national Episcopal Church used to put out in the 50’s when many congregations did not have an ordained preacher every Sunday?

  2. Derek the Ænglican says:

    Hi Adam,

    I believe you and I have spoken on the phone once before…

    I think you’re quite right about how the patristic material functioned. Too the invocation of authorities–even when the sermon would diverge almost immediately had an important function of both authorizing the content and informing listeners of what names they ought to be listening for.

    As for purpose–I think Lenker’s work on the AS Gospels may provide a clue here. If she’s right and those were for the use of the secular canons who were required by Chrodegang to preach every *two weeks* or so, the gaps in Æ’s temporale sequence make a little more sense… I think it’s entirely possible that his exemplars distributed from central scriptoria could have been referenced by the canons, used as a source for notes, then preached wherever they were doing their proclamation.

  3. Adam says:

    Derek — Delightful to be back in touch. Now get the d*** dissertation done!!

    Thanks for the reference to Lenker. I wish I were totally up to speed in the field — but as I read what I can, I am so amazed and heartened by the strides AS scholarship is making. May you be part of it! I am currently impressed by the work of the British “landscape” types, especially John Blair and Sarah Foot. Along those lines, has there been any useful work in tracking the Aelfric manuscripts using landscape school techniques? It would be interesting to know not only where the manuscripts came from but also where we might surmise they may have been and been used.

  4. Derek the Ænglican says:

    There’s actually a fascinating proposal to study manuscript origins from a biological sciences perspective. It’s code-named the crazy sheep project

  5. Derek the Ænglican says:

    Oh–and my director and I have agreed on December as the deadline. The damn thing *will* get done. Or else.

    No, I don’t know what the else is either…

  6. I’m indebted to Henri De Lubac like no other. thanks for developing a site for him. I’m sure he’d be pleased. I invite you to look what I’ve written. Sincerely, wjholland.wordpress.com

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