Aelfric as source : the exploitation of Aelfric's Catholic Homilies from the late tenth to twelfth centuries
My thesis is concerned with the investigation of how Aelfric's Catholic Homilies - central to the Anglo-Saxon Benedictine Reform tradition - were received by his contemporaries and successors in terms of the modification of his ideas by incorporating his homilies in mixed manuscripts or by excerpting from them for use in texts which combine Aelfrician and anonymous material. The Introduction traces Aelfric's attitude to his own sources and his instructions for the preservation and transmission of his work. These are contrasted with evidence for the reaction of scribes and compilers to the Catholic Homilies. I argue for the importance of studying and editing adapted texts, on the grounds that these represent a stage in the development of a text which is as valid as any other; they are important also in that they offer valuable evidence for reader response in the Anglo-Saxon period as well as for the transmission and manipulation of ideas. I then list details of all manuscripts containing Catholic Homilies material, and details of all homilies in the series, showing in which manuscripts, and in what form, they survive. The central section of the thesis discusses twenty-five Aelfric/anonymous texts. I trace how Catholic Homilies material is used, with what it is blended and how the result compares with Aelfric's style and concerns. I provide interlineated transcriptions of twelve of these Aelfric/anonymous texts which have not previously been edited. The General Conclusion gives an overall perspective on the use of the Catholic Homilies by compilers, surveying evidence across the period and for different parts of the country. I conclude that the texts studied testify to the adaptability and appeal of the Catholic Homilies, but also that they raise interesting questions about such issues as methods of homily composition; the extent of the influence of the Benedictine Reform; the strength of the anonymous tradition; and the perceived identity and status both of individual Catholic Homilies and indeed of Aelfric himself as source.