Doctoral Research: Two Old English Saints’ Lives

After an extended summer holiday break, we’re back! For those of you who had a break, I hope it was enjoyable; if you didn’t get a break, hopefully it was at least productive.

Since I am starting my PhD this year and it’s our first post of the year, I thought this would be a good opportunity to briefly introduce my doctoral research.

The rather boring working title for my thesis is ‘St. Chad and St. Guthlac: Two Old English Saints’ Lives.’ I plan on preparing an edition of the Old English prose versions of the Life of St. Chad and the Life of St. Guthlac, complete with a modern translation and commentary.

St. Guthlac (673-714) was a Mercian nobleman who later became a monk, then hermit. Notably, Guthlac gave sanctuary to Æthelbald, who later became king of Merica. Felix’s Vita Sancti Guthlaci was written within living memory of Guthlac and was likely the basis for the Old English prose version. The Life of St. Guthlac is found in Vercelli, Biblioteca Capitolare MS CXVII (Vercelli Book).

St. Chad (c. 634-672) was an Anglo-Saxon churchman: he was Abbot of Lastingham and later Bishop of York. In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Bede provides many details about Chad’s life and his career in the church. The Life of St. Chad is contained in Bodleian, MS Hatton 116.

In my introductory commentary I intend to address a number of issues including: the date and provenance of the texts; the dialects of each text – the Life of St. Chad is supposedly in a Kentish dialect, though it is debated if there is such a dialect, and the Life of St. Guthlac is in a Mercian dialect; as well as discuss these texts as probable translations from Latin originals; their manuscript context; and as examples of Old English hagiography.

These texts have not been looked at much in recent scholarship. The most recent critical edition of the Life of St. Chad was published in 1953, while the Life of St. Guthlac was last edited and translated in 1909.

I look forward to providing you all with updates as my research progresses.

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