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Old English prose : passio and vita : two concepts of a saint's life in Anglo-Saxon England

Author: Aelfric, Abbot of Eynsham.
Publisher: München, Germany : Grin, ©2009.
Edition/Format:   Print book : English : 1. AuflView all editions and formats
Summary:
"Lives of saints were a very popular genre in Christian Europe throughout the entire Middle Ages, and their popularity did not cease until the Reformation in the 16 th century. Since Late Antiquity two basic concepts of saints' lives had evolved, the passio ('passion') and the vita ('life'). "The passio was the literary form appropriate for a saint who had been martyred for his / her faith, whereas the vita properly  Read more...
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Genre/Form: Criticism, interpretation, etc
Named Person: Edmund, King of East Anglia; Etheldreda, Queen of Northumbria; Edmund, King of East Anglia; Etheldreda, Queen of Northumbria
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Aelfric, Abbot of Eynsham.
ISBN: 9783640626199 3640626192
OCLC Number: 813231472
Notes: "Universität zu Köln / University of Cologne. Englischesseminar / Englishseminar"--At head of title page.
"Summer term 2009."
"Dokument nr. V150971"--Page [2].
Description: 29 pages ; 21 cm
Other Titles: Two concepts of a saint's life in Anglo-Saxon England
Responsibility: Michael Pieck.

Abstract:

"Lives of saints were a very popular genre in Christian Europe throughout the entire Middle Ages, and their popularity did not cease until the Reformation in the 16 th century. Since Late Antiquity two basic concepts of saints' lives had evolved, the passio ('passion') and the vita ('life'). "The passio was the literary form appropriate for a saint who had been martyred for his / her faith, whereas the vita properly pertained to a confessor (that is, a saint whose impeccable service to God constituted a metaphorical, not real, martyrdom). At the end of the 10 th century the monk and author Ælfric of Eynsham translated a collection of forty lives of saints into the Old English vernacular. Together with his Catholic Homilies, they represent the heyday of Old English prose in the late 10th and early 11th century. The overall intention of his Lives of Saints is the same, namely to commemorate a saint on his or her feast day, and to instruct and edify the reader or hearer. The particular lives, however, are treated individually according to the different concepts, the passio and the vita. Two of Ælfric's Lives of Saints, St. Edmund's and St. Ætheldryth's, represent these two concepts. The former describes a man's life of active participation with a Christian impetus culminating in martyrdom and death, whereas the latter represents a woman's life remote from worldly affairs, which can also be described as a passive life. Ælfric was not just a learned monk and translator but a formidable writer and stylist in his mother tongue. The fact that he had written a book for teaching Latin in Old English leads to the assumption that he must have been familiar with the peculiarities of grammatical constructions in both languages. A comparison between The Life of St. Edmund (passio) and the Life of St. Æthelthryth (vita), will show that, despite many parallels, he strengthens the individual concepts, male and active vs. female and passive, not only by purely stylistic but also grammatical means.

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