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Title:Apocryphal lore and the life of Christ in Old English literature
Author(s):Hall, Thomas Nelson
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Wright, Charles D.
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Medieval
Literature, English
Abstract:Recent studies of the influence of apocryphal legends on medieval literature have revealed a surprising number of such traditions current in Anglo-Saxon England. This dissertation examines the sources, transmission, and reception of apocryphal texts and motifs associated with the life of Christ in Old English literature.
Chapter 1, "Orthodoxy, Canonicity, and the Reception of Apocryphal Literature in Anglo-Saxon England," distinguishes several kinds of apocrypha known to the early Christian Church; summarizes the development of patristic attitudes toward them; documents the familiarity of several Anglo-Saxon authors (Bede, Aldhelm, Alcuin, and AElfric) with apocrypha and contrasts their views toward them; and illustrates the often intimate connection between apocryphal lore and biblical exegesis by tracing the history of an originally rabbinic motif recorded several times in Old English, Irish, and Insular Latin: the twelvefold division of the Red Sea.
Chapters 2 through 5 then focus on the sources of Anglo-Saxon legends about the life of Christ. Chapter 2 surveys roughly a dozen figures proposed for the age of Christ in Insular literature, some justifiable through elaborate numerological arguments. Chapter 3 documents the influence of three apocryphal Infancy Gospels (the Protevangelium of James, and Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, and the Liber de Nativitate Mariae) on Anglo-Saxon literature and art, and examines the possible sources for a claim in Adrian and Ritheus that Christ was born through Mary's right breast. Chapter 4 traces ancient and medieval analogues for a sequence of motifs in Vercelli Homily XIV which say that at Christ's Baptism the Jordan River reversed its flow and stood still, that it did so out of fear, and that John the Baptist was likewise afraid of Christ. Chapter 5 examines the sources of two legends associated with Christ's Passion--those of Longinus and Veronica--and explores two Insular motifs related to legends of the Cross: the naming of the four woods from which the Cross was fashioned, and the belief that Christ was crucified on a green tree. A concluding chapter then summarizes the role apocryphal texts and traditions played in Anglo-Saxon England and offers suggestions for future research into the reception of medieval apocrypha.
Issue Date:1990
Rights Information:Copyright 1990 Hall, Thomas Nelson
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9114255
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9114255

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