Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

A Testimonie's Stance: Editorial Positioning in AElfric's Sermo in Die Pascae

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

A Testimonie's Stance: Editorial Positioning in AElfric's Sermo in Die Pascae

Article excerpt

Being one of the first texts to reproduce in printed form the Anglo-Saxon characters, A Testimonie of Antiquity, basically an edition of AElfric's "Sermo in Die Pascae', has been the object of philological studies. Its subject matter related to the Anglican reform has also been analysed from a religious perspective. This article intends to focus on a different aspect, the reason for the text's success evidenced in its several reproductions and content discussions, which have reached the 20th century. We claim the main credit for this success is to be given to its editors and, therefore, a pragmatic analysis concentrating on stance and engagement (Hyland 2005, 2009) is an adequate study frame. The conclusions will reveal how although there are quantifiable markers that facilitated the positive reception of the text, there were other elements (closer to modern writing implements) the authors utilized to achieve their final objective.

1. Introduction

A Testimonie of Antiquity (c.1566) is a work which initially called philologists' attention due to its use of Anglo-Saxon fonts or printed reproduction of Old English characters (Bromwich 1962; Claire 1976; Kelemen 1997; Robinson 1998; Mele-Marrero 2007). Nevertheless, the text was not about historical linguistics, it pursued a religious objective: prove the effective existence of an ancient faith and practice of the Church of England, especially concerning transubstantiation.

The several editions of A Testimonie are good evidence of its success, at least about how it was perceived as a creditable text. However, the "simple" reproduction of an Old English homily by AElfric in the 16th c. does not seem persuasive enough for Early Modern English speakers, even more if we consider that parts of the content of the original text have been, in the 20th c., matter of debate for asserting, denying or reinterpreting transubstantiation (see for example: Thurston 1907; Leinbaugh 1982 or Grundy 1991).

In this paper we intend to analyse those pragmatic features that may have contributed to the credibility of A Testimonie. We claim that though some of them may be quantified, there are others less measurable, such as the form in which the text was reproduced and translated, which had an important weight in the achievement of its purpose. For the completion of this objective, we are going to concentrate not on the translation of the homily itself but on the elements surrounding it. A thorough reading of the Anglo-Saxon version of the homily against the Early Modern English version reveals that it was a quite close reproduction and word for word translation with few errors, inaccuracies or misprints (Leinbaugh 1982; Mele 2003). This fact makes us be more interested in the additions external to the homily since these are the ones that allowed the text to be interpreted from an Anglican perspective.

The contents of this article are structured as follows: first A Testimonie is described and historically contextualized, determining why a pragmatic analysis may be helpful in the understanding of its success. Section three establishes as a starting point for the study, the interaction author-reader in terms of stance and engagement as proposed by Hyland (2005, 2009). Section four presents quantifiable data basically for hedges, boosters, attitudinal markers, self-mention, reader pronouns, shared knowledge and personal asides. This is followed by a discussion of findings and the necessary inclusion of other factors in the analysis. Finally, conclusions will be stated.

2. The text: origins, production and success

A Testimonie of Antiquity is essentially an edition of one of the homilies by AElfric (c.995-1020/25) who has been identified, not without some controversy (Magennis 2009) as abbot of Eynsham in Oxfordshire in 1005. He wrote, among other works, eighty homilies for the ecclesiastical year, issued in two series of forty, which show influence, or even possible translations, of previous Latin works. …

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