Medieval Poetics and Social Practice: Responding to the Work of Penn R. Szittya

By Seeta Chaganti | Go to book overview

PENN R. SZITTYA AS SCHOLAR
AND TEACHER

Jo Ann Hoeppner Moran Cruz

Because of the wide range of Penn Szittya’s scholarship, this volume offers here a brief survey of his critical works to supplement their bibliographical listing. Readers who are familiar with his writing or teaching in one area of literary studies might learn through this survey about his role in other areas. Penn Szittya has contributed magisterial publications on the medieval antifraternal tradition, pathbreaking scholarship on Chaucer, and articles on a range of Middle English and Anglo-Saxon literatures. His scholarly publications connect political theology; cultural history; ecclesiology; exegesis; social theory and historical theory; theories and practice of kingship; popular culture; the conjunction of learned and popular culture; and the literary, scriptural, and artistic world of references behind texts ranging from the AngloSaxon to the modern period. Although the audience for this body of work consists primarily of scholars of late-medieval literature, the interdisciplinarity of Penn’s work should appeal more broadly to scholars across a range of disciplines. Penn’s thematic foci stretch across Western medieval Europe, while his research plumbs sources in Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Old French, and Middle English. A masterful reader of texts, he joins this skill with a historicist sensibility as he contextualizes medieval literatures, placing them in both an English and a Continental context, adding a detailed knowledge of surviving manuscripts as well as the surrounding manuscript culture.

Penn’s earliest scholarly contributions focused on some of the earliest vernacular texts. In his first article, published in 1971, Penn exhibits his trademark ability to approach texts from a thorough background in the extrinsic aspects of a text (as he puts it in this article), combined with an insightful intrinsic analysis of the text.1 In this case his attention is on the Oxford manuscript of La Chanson de Roland. The article focuses on an unnoticed aspect of the epic: the literary and thematic roles of the archangels

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