The Wycliffite Bible: Origin, History and Interpretation
I specialize in Old and Middle English literature, book history and manuscript studies, historical linguistics and poetics. My current research focuses on the Wyclififte Bible, translation and vernacularisation more widely, and Old and Middle Engish poetry.
I am a Principal Investigator for the following research projects:
1. 'Towards a New Edition of the Wycliffite Bible’ funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2016-19), based at the English Faculty, University of Oxford
co-Investigator: Professor Anne Hudson
Research Assistant: Dr Daniel Sawyer
Technical Researchers: T. Koterwas (Lead Application Designer) and J. Talbot (Interface Developer)
The project is undertaking preliminary work necessary to produce a much-needed new edition of the Wycliffite Bible (WB), the most widely disseminated and arguably the most complex of all surviving Middle English texts, as well as the most learned and widely attested of medieval European translations of the Vulgate. We are conducting a study of the textual tradition of the Bible and its early history in order to establish whether the traditional classification of the surviving manuscripts into two redactions, the Earlier and Later (believed to reflect the translators' first efforts to produce an English text and its subsequent revision) correctly reflects the variety of versions in circulation. We aim to investigate the relationships between important manuscripts and their value as evidence for different parts of the text. In addition we seek to understand the methods of the translators' work through the study of repeated changes in idiom and vocabulary between surviving versions and of the scholarly and interpretative apparatus that accompanies biblical text in manuscripts.
The project is exploring ways of editing WB and how such a large body of evidence can be presented and made intelligible to a user. We are developing a methodology for editing WB and will produce trial editions of select Old and New Testament books for presentation in print and online. The online edition will act as a framework for expansion when editions of other biblical books are created in future or when further materials, such as additional images or records of variants, are developed to supplement the trial editions. The online environment will offer a new research tool for scholars of WB and Middle English literature, a resource for teaching palaeography, editorial principles and techniques, and will support editing a complete biblical text as a result of a future collaborative project.
WB is the most extensive and complex of surviving Middle English texts, but its problems are not unique: consequently our work will have considerable implications for the study and editing of other contemporaneous texts, many of which exist in multiple redactions.
2. 'Editing the Wycliffite Old Testament Lectionary' funded by the John Fell Fund and Ludwig Humanities Research Fund, New College (2017-18), based at the English Faculty, University of Oxford
co-Investigator: Dr Daniel Sawyer
Consultant: Professor Anne Hudson
Research Assistant: Cosima Gillhammer
The OTL is a liturgically organised set of Mass readings derived mostly from the Old Testament books of the Wycliffite Bible. It was circulated with the Wycliffite Bible and survivies in 25 manuscritps. Its authorship is unknown but it might be the work of the original translators or members of their circle. It might preserve a version of the Wycliffite translation that is earlier or considerably different from the ones surviving in biblical manuscripts proper, making it the most important piece of currently unstudied evidence known to textual critics of the Wycliffite Bible.
I am collaborating with Jeremy Catto and Anne Hudson on a study and edition of four late 14th- -- early 15th-century treatises on biblical translation. The resulting book, Butler, Palmer, Ullerston: an Oxford debate c.1400 on biblical language will be published in series British Writers of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period by the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, University of Toronto, in 2019-20.
The work on the first complete English translation of the Bible, the Wycliffite Bible, seems to have been concentrated in Oxford, though the later professional copying was probably done mostly in London. In Oxford there seems to have been some academic interest, beyond the central circle of translators, in the theoretical issues raised by the work: given that the primary text used by the western church, the so-called Vulgate, was itself a translation from the original languages of the various biblical books, was it legitimate to go further with translation into various vernacular languages? if not, why were these vernaculars unacceptable? is there something about the 'ancient' languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, inherently superior to such vernaculars as English or French? or conversely, do such vernaculars lack a grammatical structure and vocabulary sophisticated enough to convey the ideas and material found in the Bible? Three Latin and one English treatises we are editing are attempts to answer these and other questions. The texts will be presented with extensive introduction outlining stages of argument about biblical translation in the western church and especially in England, placing the debate in its contemporary context, and examining the structure of each text. Particular attention will also be paid to the views about language reflected in all three texts, but most especially in Ullerston's who advances a sophisticated linguistic appreciation.
English literature, 650-1550; manuscript studies and textual criticism; the English Language
I currently teach the following papers:
Prelims Paper 2: Early Medieval Literature, c. 650-1350
Final Honour School Paper 2: Literature in English 1350–1550
Prelims Paper 1: Introduction to English Language and Literature, Section A, ‘Approaches to Language’
Prelims Paper 1: Introduction to English Language and Literature, Section B, ‘Approaches to Literature’
Final Honour School Paper 4: The History of the English Language
Member of Governing Committee, Association of Teachers of Old English in Britain and Ireland
Member of Advisory board, Index of Middle English Prose
Member, New Communities of Interpretation: Contexts, Strategies and Processes of Religious Transformation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe 2013-2017 (http://costaction-is1301.webhosting.rug.nl/)
I am co-organising the following conferences:
1. Nicholas Lyra (c. 1270 –1349), a one-day workshop
Organised by Anne Hudson and Elizabeth Solopova; funded by Ludwig Humanities Research Fund, New College, Oxford
17 March 2018, New College, Oxford
Papers by Emmanuel Bain, Jeremy Catto, Anne Hudson, Deeana Klepper, Michael Kuczynski, Ian Levy, Elizabeth Solopova
2. Wycliffism and Hussitism: Contexts, Methods, Perspectives
Principal organisers: Kantik Ghosh and Pavel Soukup
23-25 May 2018, St Anne’s College, Oxford
- an interdisciplinary conference in literary and linguistic studies, philosophy and theology
- covering writings in medieval Latin, Middle English, (medieval) Czech, French, German and Polish
- also focusing on manuscript studies and editing