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The Sources and Audience of the Trinity Homilies

The Sources and Audience of the Trinity Homilies
59 Queens Park Cr. E., Room A
Time: Mar 19th, 3:10 pm End: Mar 19th, 5:00 pm
Interest Categories: Religion, Study of (FAS), Medieval Studies (FAS), History (FAS), Historical Studies (UTM), Historical and Cultural Studies (UTSC), Critical Theory, Comparative Literature (FAS), Book History/Print Culture, 400-1200, 1200-1500
Research presentation by Dr. Stephen Pelle, postdoctoral fellow

The Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies (PIMS) is pleased to present an interdisciplinary research seminar:

Dr. Stephen Pelle, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Medieval Studies

The Sources and Audience of the Trinity Homilies


My project focuses on two important, and largely unstudied, collections of early Middle English preaching texts: the Lambeth Homilies, in London, Lambeth Palace Library MS. 487 (West Midlands, s.xii/xiii); and the Trinity Homilies, in Cambridge, Trinity College MS. B. 14· 52 (?Middlesex, s. xiie.~). In my first seminar, I gave a broad outline of English preaching around the year 1200, a summary of recent scholarly approaches to the material, and an in-depth examination of some of the Lambeth Homilies. The Trinity Homilies will be the subject of this semester's seminar. While Lambeth 487 is an amalgam of copies of Old English pieces and newer compositions, none of the thirty-four Trinity Homilies have any known Anglo-Saxon antecedent. The Trinity Homilies share several stylistic characteristics with the more modern texts in the Lambeth manuscript, including a tendency toward the so-called thematic
sermon style, which was being developed in Paris and elsewhere around the same time the English homilies were written down. Rather than giving a phrase-by-phrase exposition of an entire epistle or Gospel reading (like older, patristic homilies), thematic sermons were usually structured around a single Scriptural sentence - the theme - which was minutely explained according to the various possible figurative meanings of each word.

Another novel characteristic of the Trinity Homilies, which sets them apart from most Old English preaching texts, is their pervasive use of a bilingual structure, in which exegetical interpretations are first given in Latin, and then translated, with varying degrees of fidelity, into English. Very few of the Latin sentences in the homilies have ever been studied, and much of my research has focused on finding sources or analogues for as much of the Latin in the manuscript as I can, in order to attain an accurate picture of the material to which the homilist(s) had access. The presentation and analysis of the results of this search is a major topic of my talk. Another, related topic is the question of who the audience for these texts may have been. Nearly every scholar who has studied the manuscript has arrived at a different opinion on this issue, but the dispute mostly centres on whether the intended audience was lay, clerical, or some mixture of the two. A definite answer to this question may be unattainable, but a thorough examination of the structure and sources of the Trinity Homilies can nevertheless lead us closer to the truth. Other issues discussed will include the language and authorship of the texts and the nature of their exemplar or exemplars.

This event is free and open to the public.  Registration is not required. For further information, please contact the Centre for Medieval Studies at (416) 978-4884.

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