Academic journal article Medium Aevum

AElfric's 'Catholic Homilies': Introduction, Commentary and Glossary

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

AElfric's 'Catholic Homilies': Introduction, Commentary and Glossary

Article excerpt

AElfric's `Catholic Homilies: Introduction, Commentary and Glossary, ed. Malcolm Godden, EETS, ss 18 (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the Early English Text Society, 2000). lxii + 794 PP. ISBN 00-19-722419-9. L50.00.

Scholars owe a twofold debt to Malcolm Godden for this book, important both for its own sake, as a research tool, and for the milestone it signals: completion of a long-needed critical edition of AElfric's Old English Catholic Homilies. Godden's 'Introduction' (pp. xxi-lxii) begins with magisterial reviews of AElfric's career and reading. It does not treat the manuscripts or development of the two series of homilies (topics fully explored in prefaces to the text-volumes, EETS, ss 5 (1979) and 17 0997)); nor is the customary analysis of language attempted (for good reasons; see p. v). Here source study is the main order of business both in the 'Introduction' (see the very useful `Summary list', pp. xlvi-lxii) and in the ensuing 'Commentary' (pp. 3-669). The latter in fact consists largely of quotations from Latin texts used by ,AElfric. Printing all these passages in full takes up much space but is precisely the feature that makes the 'Commentary' so valuable, since sources are often quoted from unedited variant versions or from printed books rarely accessible. Even where the sources are well known, Godden's excerpting and presentation show with new force how complex Elfric's methods often were (see, for example, the yield of prose and verse sources for the homily on St Cuthbert, pp. 412-29).

The focus on sources continues in short introductions to the individual homilies, which identify the occasion for each piece, the relevant biblical pericopes, and the overarching concerns of AElfric's exposition. In these miniature essays, and in notes spread among the source passages, Godden moves as a peerless guide, always alert to even subtle shifts of motive or emphasis in the homilist's reworking of authorities. Sometimes the terrain is partly familiar: AElfric's use of Alfredian texts (e. …

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