Academic journal article Parergon

Johnson, Holly, the Grammar of Good Friday: Macaronic Sermons of Late Medieval England

Academic journal article Parergon

Johnson, Holly, the Grammar of Good Friday: Macaronic Sermons of Late Medieval England

Article excerpt

Johnson, Holly, The Grammar of Good Friday: Macaronic Sermons of Late Medieval England (Sermo, 8), Turnhout, Brepols, 2012; hardback; pp. xxx, 485; R.R.P. 110.00 [euro]; ISBN 9782503533391.

This volume comprises two parts. The first, 'Preaching on Good Friday', contains two chapters on the social, literary, ecclesiastical, and theological contexts in which the sermons were preached; if indeed they were actually preached in the form in which we have received them. The second part, 'Sermons for Good Friday', contains the text of five sermons selected by the author from the surviving material on the basis of 'shared concerns and strategies'. Each is provided with introductory notes, including a succinct outline and analysis of its structure, and a translation.

The title of the book, however, is somewhat misleading. The generic term 'macaronic' is of relatively modern adoption and is commonly applied to medieval texts that are written in two languages alternately, Latin and a vernacular. But the sermons in this collection use English only occasionally: on some pages, there is none at all; on many, there is just one word of English. At the other extreme (if it can be called that), 10 per cent of the words on p. 222 are English and their purpose appears to be only to elucidate or develop the preacher's thinking. So, there is no clear pattern to the use of English, no regularity or alternation, no predictability. English appears to be employed randomly and quite infrequently. …

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