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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/16805

Title: The English Inheritance of Biblical Verse
Authors: McBrine, Patrick
Advisor: Orchard, Andy
Department: Medieval Studies
Keywords: Medieval Latin
Issue Date: 20-Jan-2009
Abstract: “The English Inheritance of Biblical Verse” explores the transmission of late antique Latin biblical poetry to England and the subsequent development of the genre in the vernacular. This study offers close readings of the most important contributions to a genre that produced more than twenty major compositions between AD 400 and 1500. For over a millennium, this literature effectively represented the Bible in popular form, yet this is the first study to explore the stylistic and thematic affinities between the Latin and English traditions. Chapter 1 provides an introduction to ‘biblical verse,’ defines the term and offers a broad outline of the genre, including a summary of general stylistic features and critical trends. The first chapter also provides an overview of the subject matter in each of the following chapters. Chapter 2 discusses the Latin beginnings of the genre in the fourth century, beginning with the poetry of Juvencus, whose stylistic choices regarding the appropriation of classical literature establish many of the generic norms for later poets. Among them is Cyprianus, who reflects the Juvencan model in his Heptateuch, while Prudentius, though not a biblical poet per se, anticipates a movement toward stylistic freedom in later versifications of the Bible. Chapter 3 examines the growing stylistic freedom among biblical versifications at the end of late antiquity. Sedulius, Avitus and Arator break the silence imposed by epic conventions of detachment and begin to comment on the underlying significance of biblical episodes such as the crossing of the Red Sea at length. Biblical exegesis and figural allusions to Christ abound in the poetry of this period. Chapter 4 shifts the focus to Anglo-Saxon England and the study of Juvencus, Sedulius and Arator in the monastic schools of the time. Many Anglo-Latin writers, especially Aldhelm, Bede and Alcuin, borrow heavily from the style of late antique biblical verse. My purpose here is to deepen our understanding of the specific ways in which this is the case. Chapter 5 makes another transition, to Old English biblical poetry. My goal here is to explore the ways in which the Latin and vernacular traditions overlap. My approach is mainly stylistic, and I focus in particular on the biblical verse of the Junius manuscript, containaing Genesis A/B, Exodus, Daniel and Christ and Satan. Chapter 6 offers some conclusions about the variety of functions and audiences of this literature. I also suggest what work remains to be done and how knowledge of the Latin tradition informs our understanding of the literature of the Anglo-Saxon period. My goal, therefore, is to examine various ways in which poets of different eras versify the Bible by considering what is omitted from, elaborated upon and unique to a given period or author. Ultimately, I aim to show that Latin and Old English biblical verse have more in common that not and that knowledge of the former enriches understanding of the latter.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/16805
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Centre for Medieval Studies - Doctoral theses

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