Seminar Four

Post-Lateran Selves and Literacies

As seen in Seminars Two and Three, there was, in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, an established and continuing culture of vernacular patronage much concerned with lineage, identity and the annexation of the English past as the past of a contemporary francophone elite in England (later in the course we will look at some fourteenth and fifteenth century inventions of tradition). For now, it is important to note that, from the twelfth century onwards, an equally important strand of the French literature of England is the production of devotional and doctrinal texts–‘vernacular theology’ as it is now called, in a choice of terminology that deliberately blurs the older hierarchy of ‘Latin theology’ versus ‘vernacular devotion’. (Indeed, as we have already seen, most notably in the case of saints’ lives, the production of ‘vernacular theology’ texts is often barely separable from the identity politics of historiography). Language politics, the importance of female and lay patronage, the construction of listening as well as reading audiences etc also characterize this production of twelfth and thirteenth century ‘vernacular theology’. In the after-effects of the provisions of the fourth Lateran council of 1215 for annual confession by individuals and the consequent production of handbooks and pastoralia (in French in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and from the end of the thirteenth century in English) we see the continuing importance of patronage, even in fundamentally ecclesiastical works, and further articulations of reading models and their significance. Notable here is an intensified concern with compilation andordination and readerly choice. We look here at two symptomatic texts and some background information on this development in the thirteenth century. But some pre-Lateran texts are also included since it is important not to conceive the Lateran IV decrees as arriving into a vacuum: there is already a substantial vernacular devotional and theological culture in medieval England into which they play, and it is not one in which the church is simply and obviously the dominant partner. One might indeed ask why clerks are so anxious to demonstrate their indispensability to the laity as we can see them being in the rhetorics and strategies of their texts for lay and ecclesiastical patrons.


  1. Sansun de Nanteuil, Les Proverbes Salemon, for Lady Aaliz de Cunde (by 1165): prologue extracts (text in photocopy, translation by email).
  2. Angier of St Frideswide, The Dialogues of Gregory the Great, completed 1213: prologues extracts (text in photocopy, translation by email).
  3. William Waddington’s Manuel des péchés, c. 1260: prologue extracts (text in photocopy, translation by e-mail).
  4. The Lambeth Apocalypse (1260-65) penitential diagram, f. 53r (photocopy).


  1. Malcolm B. Parkes, ‘The influence of the concepts of ordination and compilation on the development of the book’ in Medieval Learning and Literature: Essays Presented to Richard William Hunt, ed. J.J. G. Alexander and M. T. Gibson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), pp. 115-41; repr. in M. B. Parkes, Scribes, Scripts and Readers: Studies in the communication, Presentation, and Dissemination of Medieval Texts (London: Hambledon Press, 1991).
    This is the classic starting point for studies of the ordering of text in medieval books and the conceptions of text and the uses of writing that drive such ordering. Now that so much work is being done on the history of reading and the roles and models for medieval reading, it continues to contribute importantly and should be read if you don’t already know it.
  2. Adelaide Bennett, ‘A Book Designed for a Noblewoman; An Illustrated Manuel des péchésof the Thirteenth Century’, in Medieval Book Production: Assessing the Evidence, ed. Linda L. Brownrigg (Los Altos: Anderson-Lovelace, 1990), 163-181. A classic study of an illustrated book of religious texts for a woman patron.
  3. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, ‘“Our Steward, St Jerome”: Theology and the Anglo-Norman Household’, in Household, Women and Christianities, ed. Anneke B. Mulder-Bakker and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005). The only literary study, to our knowledge, of this topic.
  4. Nicholas Watson and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, ‘The French of England: Ancrene Wisse, theCompileison and the Idea of Anglo-Norman’, Journal of Romance Studies 4 (2004), 31-58. This is a position piece, so has some general background on the state of the French of England as well as an account of a post-Lateran compilation text, but is as far as we know the only argument yet made specifically for French as the post-Lateran language of the formation of the self in medieval England.


For your practicum preparation see the separate practicum syllabus.

For the seminar: Please read and note the primary texts and come prepared to discuss them.

For translation, please prepare lines 63 to 78 of the extract from Waddington’s Manuel des péchés.

This week’s background reading is primarily informative, and it would be best if all have time to look at the four articles. Brief reports on Parkes and Bennett would be very welcome: feel free to add in brief examples from your own experience elsewhere in the field of medieval textual ordering and literary patronage if appropriate.