115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Poetry in the Homily: Sermo Lupi ad Anglos and Old English Poetic Form 

Stacie Vos, University of California, San Diego

The homilist, like the poet, relies upon alliteration, meter, figurative language, and the catalog form. This paper will suggest that critical divisions between poetry and prose fail to assess the ways in which the Anglo-Saxon preacher reached his audience precisely because of his facility with poetic language.

Proposal: 

Renee Rebecca Trilling has noted that the later chronicler of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle replaces poetry with homiletic discourses. In The Wanderer the reader finds many passages that echo both the sound and the message of Wulfstan’s famous sermon. How did these two genres influence one another in the early Middle Ages? Following scholars such as Clare Lees and Seth Lerer, this paper seeks to question the usefulness of strict distinctions between poetry and prose in this time period and in other areas of English literature, highlighting the ways in which the sermon has been foundational in the shaping of the English language and the literary tradition. The homilist, like the poet, relies upon alliteration, meter, figurative language, and the catalog form. What do modern scholars miss when they put the homily aside and instead only compile poetry for study, or when they fail to look at these different forms side by side. This paper will suggest that such categorization fails to assess the ways in which the Anglo-Saxon preacher reached his audience precisely because of his facility with poetic language.