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Aspects of Medieval English Language and Literature

Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference of the Society of Historical English Language and Linguistics


Edited By Michiko Ogura and Hans Sauer

This volume is a collection of papers read at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in 2017, in two sessions organized by the Institute of English Studies at the University of London and four sessions organized by the Society of Historical English Language and Linguistics. Contributions consist of poetry, prose, interlinear glosses, syntax, semantics, lexicology, and medievalism. The contributors employ a wealth of different approaches. The general theme of the IMC 2017 was ‘otherness’, and some papers fit this theme very well. Even when two researchers deal with a similar topic and arrive at different conclusions, the editors do not try to harmonize them but present them as they are for further discussion.

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4 Ælfric’s Polemic of Orthodoxy versus Error:: An Analysis of the Name-Game



Joyce Hill

4 Ælfric’s Polemic of Orthodoxy versus Error: An Analysis of the Name-Game

Abstract: In his letter to Archbishop Sigeric, Ælfric lists the patristic authorities which validate the orthodoxy of his homilies. This paper examines the actual deployment of their names within the texts, showing that in practice they are used differentially, both in frequency and purpose.

Throughout his career, and already in his first two works, the two Series of Catholic Homilies, issued respectively in 989 and 994, Ælfric determinedly opposed what for him were unacceptable forms of Christian teaching. Most pointedly he set himself up to combat what from the start he defined as gedwyld ‘error’.1 By this he meant teaching that did not stand firmly within that particular strand of patristic interpretation exemplified by those Church Fathers that had been promoted by the Carolingian Reform and which thus figured in the manuscript compilations underpinning the Benedictine Reform of tenth century Anglo-Saxon England. The tradition of ‘the other’, for Ælfric, was not necessarily heretical, but rather, unreliable, unscholarly, judged from a particular standpoint.2 His tactics of resistance were various, ranging from tacit omission to overtly expressed avoidance, and included injunctions to scribes to be accurate in copying and not to mingle his work with that of others, all of which were already deployed in his Catholic Homilies. When dealing with biblical exegesis, which of course has doctrinal significance, his dominant approach was to assert his participation in a larger tradition of...

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