Everyday Saints and the Art of Narrative in the South English Legendary
Anne Thompson here gives the fullest account and explanation to date of the diversity of the more than sixty manuscripts of the South English Legendary, a late thirteenth-century collection of lively verse lives of saints, in a southern English dialect. The importance of the SEL to hagiographic and cultural studies has been increasingly acknowledged in recent years. Without denying the legendaries’ religious purpose, this book looks at the way SEL narratives reflect and address the complex, interwined tapestry”political, social, religious”of Edward I’s England, while retaining a strong emphasis on the craft of story-telling. Thompson shows the SEL to be a fresh and exciting early example of popular vernacular literature. Firmly grounded in rural and small town life of the 1270s to 1290s in the west of England, it is uniquely significant for any understanding of that culture.
'It is a pleasure to welcome the first book on the South English Legendary devoted to stressing its literary virtues and the enjoyment to be derived from reading it.' Notes and Queries 'Thompson's excellent book is a welcome addition to a growing body of scholarship that seeks to look beyond generic boundaries - particularly those between religious and secular literature - to situate medieval texts within their particular cultural moments. It illumniates the ways in which poets writing in English struggled to create a narrative style that would convey divine truths in a language rooted in real human life. An appendix provides an overview for those seeking more detail about the SEL's textual history.' The Medieval Review 'Anne Thompson's study goes a long way toward making the Legendary more familiar to Middle English scholars who seek to recover the 'horizon of expectations' of a medieval audience encountering one of more of the saints' lives in the collection... The book is well written and produced, and it represents a substantial advance in the study of major Middle English text.' Speculum