Legend of Holy Women, A
A Translation of Osbern Bokenham's Legends of Holy Women
256 pages, 0.00 x 0.00
Paperback | 9780268012953 | December 1992
Hardcover | 9780268012946 | December 1992
Sheila Delany's spirited translation of Osbern Bokenham's Legendys of Hooly Wummen (1443–1447) makes available in modern English the first all-female hagiography. Closely translated from elaborate, Latinate Middle English verse into fluent prose, A Legend of Holy Women contains the Augustinian friar’s version of the stories of 13 women saints from gospel, apocrypha, martyrology, and high-medieval history. As Delany writes in her comprehensive introduction, “Bokenham gives us not only an all-female hagiography—an authorial decision significant in its own right—but a gallery of powerful, articulate women who are indubitably worthy to do God’s work. Some of them are well-educated, some give sound political advice to a monarch, some preach, converting hundreds and thousands to Christianity, some walk on water or perform resurrection. Nor are they pacifists; on the contrary, they call for divinely inflicted vengeance and approve violence in their cause.” Delany argues that Geoffrey Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women provided a principle of selection and of arrangement for Bokenham’s array of saints. She suggests further that the friar’s choice of all-female hagiography, and his poetic representation of holy women, are closely linked to patronage and politics in fifteenth-century England. The translation is accompanied by full notes which, along with the introduction, make the book accessible to a wide audience. It will appeal to all readers interested in the representation of women in late-medieval culture as well as to scholars and students in medieval, renaissance, religious, and women’s studies.
Dr. Sheila Delany is an emerita professor of English at Simon Fraser University.
"We must be grateful to Ms. Delany for the assiduity of her well-researched and perceptive study of the life and works of this little known clerical poet." ~Times Literary Supplement