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Title: The Old English medical collections in their literary context
Author: Kesling, Emily
ISNI:       0000 0004 7234 1170
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This dissertation examines the literary and historical contexts of four collections of medical material from Anglo-Saxon England. These collections are widely known under the titles Bald's Leechbook, Leechbook III, the Lacnunga, and the Old English Pharmacopeia. As medical literature, these texts have tended to be primarily approached through the lens of the history of medicine or cultural history and folklore. However, as textual compositions carefully engaging with learned culture, these texts are relevant to the wider literary history of the period. The aim of this thesis is to examine these collections within specifically literary contexts, where they have been frequently overlooked. Towards this end, I take the approach of considering each of the four collections as individual, coherent texts, rather than treating them as simply as part of a general corpus of Old English medical literature, as has sometimes been done. This approach is reflected in the organisation of this thesis, which dedicates one chapter to each collection, with a final chapter on the characterisation of medicine within broader Anglo-Saxon literary culture. Each of these chapters details what I view as the distinctive qualities of a particular collection and considers what intellectual and literary milieux it may reflect. Chapter 1 discusses the strategies of compilation and translation employed in Bald's Leechbook and the relation of some passages within the text to translations associated with the Alfredian revival. Chapter 2 considers the incorporation of liturgical material within Leechbook III, while at the same time exploring the relationship of ælfe (elves) and the Christian demonic in these texts. Chapter 3 explores the textual and manuscript relationships surrounding the Lacnunga and argues that this collection reflects interests consonant with early insular expressions of grammatica. Chapter 4 examines the translation style used in the Old English Herbarium (comprising the first half of the Old English Pharmacopeia) and the place of this collection within the context of the tenth-century Benedictine Reform movement. Finally, Chapter 5 considers the representation of medicine within the larger Old English literary corpus and suggests that the depiction of medicine in these sources is ultimately positive, something that perhaps encouraged the flourishing of vernacular medical production we see testified to in the Old English medical collections. It is my hope that by highlighting the literary and learned aspects of these collections this dissertation will bring a new appreciation of these texts to a wider readership interested in Old English literature.
Supervisor: Leneghan, Francis ; O'Donoghue, Heather Sponsor: Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English literature--Old English ; History of Medicine ; Bald's Leechbook ; Leechbook ; Medicine ; Anglo-Saxon ; Old English ; Medieval ; Herbarium