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Scapegoating the secular clergy: the hermeneutic style as a form of monastic self-definition

  • Rebecca Stephenson (a1)

Abstract

This article examines Byrhtferth of Ramsey's derogatory comments about the secular clerics in the Enchiridion and suggests that they should not be read at face value as accurate representations of real members of his monastic classroom, but instead should be read as epideictic literature, the literature of praise and blame. Through these portraits of lazy and incompetent secular clerics, Benedictine monks inscribe their own identity by means of a negative example. Particularly important to the monks' self-definition is the skilful deployment of the so-called hermeneutic style, which encodes the values of the Benedictine Reform, especially the reform's emphasis on education.

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