JOHN RYLE KEZEL, Fordham University


In 1898, Caroline White said that the reader cannot find the real AElfric in a monastic cell. Since then, scholars have attempted to discover the real man behind the monk. Recently, studies have stressed that AElfric was a self-conscious artist who combined true discrimination with a profound knowledge of sources in composing his works. Unfortunately, such a critical approach cannot adequately account for AElfric's traditionalism and apparent unoriginality. Moreover, too little biographical information survives for a proper understanding of AElfric as an historical person.^ A more productive approach was suggested by Marguerite-Marie Dubois in AElfric: Sermonnaire, Docteur et Grammairien (Paris: 1943), which viewed AElfric as "le type parfait du moine savant et pieux." Dubois believed that approaching AElfric through his vocation contributes to the broader study of tenth-century English Benedictinism. To an extent, AElfric the Benedictine and His Spells for the Assumption follows a similar approach by stressing the need to discover the Benedictine behind the author. Viewing his works as important monastic documents in the vernacular--rather than as personal statements of a self-conscious author--in no way detracts from AElfric's greatness as a writer. In fact, such an approach underscores the historical importance of his works as the culmination of Anglo-Saxon monasticism's interest in the vernacular.^ This investigation of AElfric as a Benedictine is divided into three main sections. "The History of Anglo-Saxon Monasticism Preceding AElfric" reviews the rich spiritual and cultural inheritance that he enjoyed as a monk of the tenth-century Reform. "AElfric the Writer: Munuc and M ssepreost" reveals how his works, appearing at a critical period, grew out of his Benedictine vocation. "AElfric and the Assumption of Mary" shows that his two sermons ("spells") for this feast in the Catholic Homilies are not so much expressions of personal doubts as documents presenting the dogmatic reservations of Bede and other monastic writers. Finally, an "Appendix" discusses the plausability of viewing two controversial sermons as authentic works of AElfric for the Assumption: De Sancta Virginitate (London, British Museum, Cotton Vitellius C.V) and De Virginitate (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 419).^

Subject Area

Literature, Medieval

Recommended Citation

JOHN RYLE KEZEL, "AELFRIC THE BENEDICTINE AND HIS SPELLS FOR THE ASSUMPTION (ENGLAND)" (January 1, 1983). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8326687.