Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Dissertation

Here's how the project is shaping up at the moment.

There's a brief introduction, mostly the type of thing that I sent to the MAA as my application or my prospectus explaining what this Letter to Sigeweard is and why it is important to study etc.

Chap. 1 is a biography of Aelfric, which probably didn't need to be redone, but I've taken the minority position that Aelfric is a little older than is usually stated and that there are indications that he was already on the rise at Wincester before going to Cerne Abbas. I wasn't going to keep this, but material in later chapters keeps referring back to material in this first chapter, so in it goes.

Chap. 2 is a lengthy discussion originally modeled on Drew Jones' chapter for Letter to the Monks at Eynsham: author, recipient, date, occasion, content, structure, themes etc. The bulk of the chapter though sets the Letter into the intellectual contexts: 1) as a catechetical text a) in the catechetical tradition and literature of the Benedictine Refore and other Anglo-Saxon era catechetical instruction b) in the more specific context of Aelfric's catechetical works. Further, I focus for a number of pages on Aelfric's various treatments of the Hexameral tradition and explain why this Letter and that to Wulfgat emphasize a certain aspect of that tradition, namely Lucifer not wanting God as his Lord, and further building on articles by Dave Johnson and Michael Fox, argue for specific connections between Aelfric and Genesis A and B. Finally, I discuss Aelfric's discussion of the books of the Bible in the context of previous such discussions: Eusebius (through Rufinus), Jerome, Augustine, Cassiodorus, Isidore, and Alcuin.

Chapter 3 is a discussion of Aelfric's canon: the order of the books that Aelfric discusses is best matched by Cassiodorus and I explore how that situation might have come about since there is no evidence that Aelfric knew Cassiodorus directly.

Chapter 4 is a discussion of the manuscripts and the manuscript context of the Letter; there will also be some discussion of readers/users and audience. I'm also thinking about the fact that a section of the Letter that I have for some time taken as a story from Eusebius' in Rufinus' translations (which is still the ultimate source) is in actual fact the Old English translation of a sermon in Peter the Deacon's homiliary, and may have been recognized as such by readers of the Letter who separated that section out to serve as a stand alone sermon in other sermon collections.

Chapter 5 is a discussion of William L'Isle and his edition of the Letter. I've not even begun this section.

Following these chapters are my edition, translation, and commentary on the text. This is the section that is both the easiest and the most difficult. But the commentary is a mix of source identification, explanation, grammatical and semantic notices, etc.

That's how it looks at the moment.