Middle English Metrical Paraphrase of the Old Testament

Middle English Metrical Paraphrase of the Old Testament

The Middle English Metrical Paraphrase of the Old Testament. Ed. Michael Livingston. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2011. [Available for free online.]

From the Introduction:

Comprised of 1,531 12-verse stanzas, running to a total of 18,372 verses, the Paraphrase is unquestionably a mammoth work; James H. Morey, one of the few modern critics to reveal much awareness of the poem, humorously points out that its “ponderous title befits its scale” as “one of the longest and most comprehensive biblical paraphrases.” Like the Bible upon which it is based, then, it is unlikely to be a text read cover-to-cover by the faint-hearted. Rather, the Paraphrase is a text more apt to be regarded as a reference book than as a work of literature: useful, perhaps, for reviewing stories of bulwarks like Samson, David, Job, or Judith. Yet the opinion that this is not a full-fledged work of literature is misinformed. The Paraphrase is, in several ways, a remarkable artifact of the Chaucerian period, one that can reveal a great deal about vernacular biblical literature in Middle English, about readership and lay understandings of the Bible, about the relationship between Christians and Jews in late-medieval England, about the environment in which the Lollards and other reformers worked, about perceived roles of women in history and in society, and even about the composition of medieval drama.

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This newest volume in the TEAMS series is a medievalist’s delight.

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