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An invigorating annual for those who are interested in medieval textual cultures and open to ways in which diverse post-modern methodologies may be applied to them." Alcuin Blamires Review of English Studies"
An air of anomaly lingers about Eleanor Hull. There is one manuscript only, Cambridge, University Library, MS Kk. I. 6, containing her commentary on the Penitential Psalms and the meditations on the days of the week, together with other devotional texts and religious poems by Lydgate. We would have been slow to attribute the psalm commentary to a woman author were it not for the explicit in the manuscript by Richard Fox, Steward of St Alban': ‘Here endeth the vij Psalmus the wheche Dame Alyanore Hulle transelated out of Frensche into Englesche’. Thanks to Alexandra Barratt, we have not only an excellent edition of the psalms commentary but also a good deal of information about Hull's life: daughter of one retainer of John of Gaunt, she married another, served Queen Joan of Navarre, widow of Henry IV, and was admitted to the confraternity of St Albans in 1417. She probably retired after her husband' death in 1421 to the priory of the Benedictine nuns at Sopwell, where she knew the learned priest and lawyer Roger Huswyf, who was to serve as her executor. Born in the 1390s, she died in 1460. She thus had impeccably Lancastrian credentials and has been read as a poster child for post-Arundel orthodoxy. Although Barratt rightly promoted Hull's work in the context of ‘medieval women writers’, it was for a while as if Hull was the wrong type of woman: neither a visionary nor a Lollard. There is also a problem of sources. While one has been found for the meditations on the days of the week, no French or Anglo-Norman original has yet been identified for her psalm commentary — which, in any case, is full of identifiable citation and reference to other commentaries, especially Augustine and Peter Lombard. In Psalm 6, for example, she combines Lombard's interest in title and genre with Augustine' emphasis on the eighth day of Judgement. This is a challenge to our reading skills. At what points do we think we hear Hull's voice? Once we think we have, how do we value her part? Barratt makes both a minor case — for Hull as a ‘competent’ translator — and a major one for her psalm commentary as ‘one of the most sustained examples of scriptural exegesis in English’.
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.