Skip to main content

IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 1646: Allegorising the Bible and Translating Scholastic Concepts to the Vernacular: William of Malmesbury, Chaucer, and William Langland

Thursday 6 July 2023, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Ian Johnson, St Andrews Institute of Mediaeval Studies / School of English, University of St Andrews
Paper 1646-aBad Bishop, Ignoble Nobles, and the Wages of Sin: William of Malmesbury's Allegorical Exegesis of Lamentations
(Language: English)
Jason Stubblefield, Department of History, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Index terms: Biblical Studies, Ecclesiastical History, Local History, Monasticism
Paper 1646-bOckhamite Humour in Chaucer's The Book of The Duchess
(Language: English)
Selena Ozbas, Department of English Language & Literature, Istanbul Yeni Yuzyil University
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Mentalities, Philosophy
Paper 1646-cTranslating Charity in Piers Plowman
(Language: English)
Derek Witten, Trinity College of Arts & Science, Duke University, North Carolina
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Language and Literature - Latin, Lay Piety, Theology

Paper -a:
This paper will argue that allegorical exegesis is important for understanding the writings of William of Malmesbury - a 12th-century English monk and historian. By William's day, exegetes and preachers had long asserted that inhabitants of England brought foreign conquest on themselves through their own sin - a claim rooted in allegorical readings of biblical accounts of the conquests of Israel and Judah. Living in the wake of the Norman Conquest, William turned his pen to a commentary on Lamentations to explain this most recent conquest of England and its aftermath. The allegorical exegesis in William's Lamentations commentary decried exploitation and mismanagement of monasteries and church property by nobles and bishops from the continent, and included veiled criticisms of William's own bishop, Roger of Salisbury.

Paper -b:
This paper aims at exploring the humoristic tendencies in the earliest of Chaucer's major poems, The Book of The Duchess (BD). In this respect, without referring to Chaucer's possible intellectual interactions with medieval nominalism, I will respond to the Ockhamite quality of Chaucer's humour which eliminates the truth-conditions of extramental universals. In accordance, it will be argued that the Dreamer's misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Black Knight's reference to the chess game of love displays the humorous incongruity between courtly romance tradition's reception of love as a universal abstraction and Chaucer's 'translation' of love as an experiential phenomenon which, it will be anticipated, overlaps with the Ockhamite superlativeness of experience over mental constructions and defines Chaucer's humour in BD as nominalist in character, both poetically and philosophically.

Paper -c:
In Piers Plowman, the worlds of lay and scholastic theology entangle when the figure of Imaginatif translates the English scholastic theological term, caritas: 'Ac for to louye and to lene and lyue wel and byleue / Is ycalde Caritas, Kynde Loue an Engelysche[…]' (XIV.12-14). This paper argues that here, Langland has smuggled in a bold redefinition under the guise of straightforward translation. The scholastic category, in fact, is characterized by its super-naturalness, not its 'kynde'-ness - Aquinas: 'non est secundum bona naturalia, sed secundum dona gratuita' (Summa IIb.24.2). Langland's 'Kynde Loue' evolves into an idiosyncratic and manifestly more material theological arrangement of the virtue.