Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 May 2017
This volume explores the diverse ways in which the Book of Psalms profoundly influenced medieval English literature and culture, through a series of connected overviews and special case studies. A number of recent studies have highlighted the Psalter's reception in Early Modern English (and wider European culture), while three monographs by contributors to this volume offer focused studies of the Psalter in individual periods of medieval English literature: Jane Toswell's The Anglo-Saxon Psalter, Annie Sutherland's English Psalms in the Middle Ages: 1300–1450and Michael P. Kuczynski's Prophetic Song: The Psalms as Moral Discourse in Late Medieval England. But as yet no single study has sought to offer a comprehensive survey of English responses to the Book of Psalms from the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to the cusp of the Reformation. By bringing work by experts on both Old and Middle English literature into dialogue, this volume breaks down the traditional disciplinary binaries of pre- and post-Conquest English, late medieval and Early Modern, as well as emphasizing the complex and fascinating relationship between Latin and the vernacular languages of England. In order to encourage the reader to make connections both across and within these various periods and languages, the book is arranged thematically rather than chronologically, with three sections designed to offer a variety of perspectives on the Psalms and medieval English literature.
Section I (Translation) focuses on the development of English psalm translation from its beginnings in Old English interlinear glosses in Latin psalters through the multilingual psalters of the Anglo-Norman era to the stand-alone vernacular psalters of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Concentrating on the Psalter as a book, this section charts the emergence of English as a scriptural language in the medieval period.
Section II (Adaptation) considers how medieval English prose and verse writers draw on the Psalms as a source of literary inspiration. Demonstrating how the Psalter could be adapted and redeployed within the context of medieval worship and prayer, it begins with a discussion of the first adaptation of the entire Psalter into English verse, before turning to a consideration of the development of the abbreviated psalter tradition. This section also addresses the wider influence of psalmic language and imagery on Old English praise and lament poetry, and on Middle English alliterative verse.