Animal Lore and Medieval English Sermon Style
Florida State University, 1980
PhD dissertation at Florida State University.
"Medieval sermon literature from the tenth to the fifteenth century exhibits changes in thematic emphasis, style, and structure. These changes are visible in the manner in which the preachers from the Anglo-Saxon period to the later Middle Ages use animal lore as an aspect of their sermons and homilies. Animal lore in the Middle Ages represents two traditions, one figurative, the other 'scientific.' The figurative tradition owes its character to the Bible and the writings of the Church Fathers, manifesting itself in the medieval bestiaries. The 'scientific' branch of animal lore may be traced back to Aristotle and finds its medieval expression in the encyclopedias. Preaching discourses from the Anglo-Saxon period are largely homiletic in character, dealing with the explication of Scripture. The thematic emphasis is figurative and this emphasis is visible in the Anglo-Saxon preacher's handling of animal lore. Both the Blickling Homilist and Aelfric confine their use of animal lore to those animals mentioned in Scripture, or those discussed by the Fathers. Both the Blickling Homilies and the Sermones Catholici are loosely structured and embellished according to the devices outlined in the classical manuals of rhetoric. Preachers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries favor the pithy moral sermon. Their use of animal lore is 'naturalistic'--drawn from common everyday experience for the purpose of exemplification. They no longer make widespread use of the ornaments of style: their sermons are characterized by the micro-structural principle of division. Preachers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries favor a far more elaborate sermon form, growing out of the ars praedicandi. They use animal lore chosen eclectically from the medieval encyclopedias for the purpose of providing entertaining anecdotes. This animal lore is incorporated into the sermon at the macro-structural level as the preacher organizes his material according to an elaborate system of division and sub-division. " - abstract
Last update December 6, 2021