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The Mythographic Sermon in Late Medieval England: Classicism, Discourse, and Clerical Identity, 1330-1450

Bernhard Hollick

The Greco-Roman pantheon was very much alive in fourteenth and early fifteenth century England. In cultural centres like Oxford, London and St Albans, a significant body of texts emerged, whose most obvious feature was the reception of mythic, mostly Ovidian narratives. It is no accident that these texts were composed in a period, when older models of clerical knowledge, which comprised both pagan (poetic and philosophical) wisdom and biblical revelation, came increasingly under attack. Mythographic writing served as an act of cultural self-assertion by the scholastic elites, who realized that their traditions of learning were asked into question. Due to their public nature, sermons played a key role in this attempt to reinforce a threatened clerical identity.

The aim of the project is to analyse the function of mythic elements in sermons and related texts as well as their interaction with contemporary scholastic discourse. On this way, it hopes to throw light both on the dynamics of the classical tradition at the end of the Middle Ages and on the roots of the Northern Renaissance.

For a German outline of the project, which is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), click here.