A.G. Traver

title.none: Wenzel, Macaronic Sermons (Traver)

identifier.other: baj9928.9701.006 97.01.06

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: A.G. Traver, Southeastern Louisiana University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1997

identifier.citation: Wenzel, Siegfried. Macaronic Sermons: Bilingualism and Preaching in Late-Medieval England. Recentiores: Later Latin Texts and Contexts. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994. Pp. ix, 361. $54.50. ISBN: ISBN 0-472-10521-3.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 97.01.06

Wenzel, Siegfried. Macaronic Sermons: Bilingualism and Preaching in Late-Medieval England. Recentiores: Later Latin Texts and Contexts. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994. Pp. ix, 361. $54.50. ISBN: ISBN 0-472-10521-3.

Reviewed by:

A.G. Traver
Southeastern Louisiana University

Siegfried Wenzel's Macaronic Sermons: Bilingualism and Preaching in Late-Medieval England has grown out of his earlier research on English verses in medieval Latin sermons. In this well written and insightful work, Wenzel addresses many of the problematic issues which arise from the study of the macaronic or mixed-language sermon genre including: 1) Can these bilingual sermons be given an adequate taxonomy?; 2) Why were these sermons written in a linguistically mixed format; and 3) What do such sermons tell us about their intended audience?

As the title suggests, Wenzel deals specifically with the study of macaronic sermons in England from roughly 1350 to 1450, or more precisely, between the rule of Richard II and the death of Henry V. From this period, Wenzel has identified forty-three fully linguistically mixed sermons (Latin/English), contained in thirteen manuscripts: these sermons and manuscripts form the core of Wenzel's study.

The work itself contains 129 printed pages of text divided into six chapters. Each chapter includes varying amounts of material excerpted from these bilingual sermons; the Latin is usually translated -- biblical citations are italicized -- while the English is presented in bold. The five appendices (A-E) comprise 219 pages. Appendix A contains an inventory of the thirteen manuscripts which contain "genuinely" macaronic sermons. Appendices B, C, and D include editions and translations of the three macaronic sermons Amore langueo, De celo querebant, and Quem teipsum facis. Appendix E contains a statistical table of all forty-three mixed-language sermons enumerating the number of English words used and the frequency with which each sermon switches language.

After briefly reviewing the history and significance of the appellation "macaronic", Wenzel examines the usage of the mixed-language text as a literary device. His primary interest is, of course, linguistically mixed sermons, thus he concentrates on the difficulties of applying the term "macaronic" to sermon literature. What is a macaronic sermon? Sermons may contain many different types of bilingual elements ranging from a single word, to a sentence, to an entire passage. Should a single vernacular word in an otherwise Latin sermon automatically make it macaronic? Or are more rigorous criteria necessary to separate a sermon's macaronic components?

Furthermore, the mixed-language elements within a sermon often serve very different purposes. They may be technical in nature and provide an English gloss to a Latin word; they may also use a vernacular term, such as the name of a plant or animal, when the English equivalent would be more familiar than its Latin counterpart. Some bilingual components may be literary and include common vernacular sayings and idiomatic expressions. Others may be only structural, and translate a theme or a division of a sermon. Yet others switch languages mid-sentence for no discernable reason. Can one differentiate between these various macaronic elements?

To resolve these issues, Wenzel proposes a new classification by which the various macaronic elements within each sermon can be categorized separately. His typology addresses the issue of macaronicity with far more precision than that earlier proposed by Albert Lecoy de la Marche in Le Chaire francaise au moyen age (Paris: 1886) and will probably became the standard in the field.

According to Wenzel, Latin sermons which contain English words in the form of glosses, technical terms, translations of themes, authorities, and vernacular sayings are all labelled as "type A". While they are macaronic, their English elements merely translate a part of the Latin discourse or are imported into it in the manner of quotations (17).

"B" elements, or "type B" sermons are characterized by the appearance of English words, phrases, clauses, and paragraphs which serve a purely structural function as divisions, subdivisions, or distinctions within the sermon. While the "B" category may seem prima facie to include matter included within type A, Wenzel justifies this separation by recourse to the extreme importance that division had on the structure of the scholastic sermon.

"C" elements or "type C" sermons are genuinely macaronic. They are both intrasententially bilingual and syntactically integrated, and form the basis of the remainder of the study. "Type D" sermons are written in English but have "B" elements in Latin; similarly, "E" sermons are written in English and contain "A" elements in Latin.

Wenzel narrows his focus by separating the constituents of type C sermons into a further division: 1) "Minimal C" is the presence of a single word or phrase of two words of a type C sermon; 2) "Marginal C" is the presence of type C phrases of three or more words, but less than ten; and 3) "Full C" is the presence of ten or more type C phrases of three or more words. These "full C" sermons are what Wenzel defines as "genuinely macaronic".

After explaining his typology, Wenzel details certain similarities of these fully macaronic sermons by exploring the manuscript evidence. The thirteen manuscripts which contain the "genuinely macaronic" sermons can be assigned to three different types of late-medieval manuscripts: notebooks, miscellanies, and sermon collections. One of the manuscripts is a notebook, comprised of several booklets, which contain excerpts and material relating to the spiritual life. Two manuscripts are miscellanies, which include works and treatises of various sorts. And the remaining ten manuscripts are sermon collections, which contain a large number of sermons and a small amount of preaching aids (exhortations, artes praedicandi, collections of miracles, and treatises on confession). The sermons of type C always appear in the company of others entirely in Latin; moreover, they usually are found along with representatives of other linguistically mixed sermons including types A, B, minimal and marginal C, and even types D and E. The type C sermons, as Wenzel claims, were thus "neither privileged nor marginalized" (64).

Wenzel also notes, however, that the ten manuscripts of sermon collections exhibit a great deal of diversity. This is especially true with respect to their provenance. Four of the manuscripts can be linked to the Franciscan Order, one holds a sermon cycle ascribed to the famous Dominican preacher John of Bromyard, and four more manuscripts are "unquestionably connected" with the Benedictine Order (60). This diversity also applies to their organization: all of them mix sermons from the two major cycles (de tempore and de sanctis), and intersperse sermons intended for the clergy next to those intended for the laity. None of these collections give any indication of why they were originally compiled.

After examining the manuscripts, Wenzel delves into the sermons themselves. Like the manuscripts, the sermons reveal many similarities and discrepancies. All of the macaronic sermons are scholastic sermons. They are based on a short biblical theme, which, after a protheme and an introduction, are formally divided. These divisions are then, depending on the sermon, further developed at some length. Within each macaronic sermon, certain "favorite topics" frequently appear. That is, the language of the sermon remains in Latin until it turns to one of the "favorite topics" and the language becomes macaronic. As one example, Wenzel notes that many of these "full C" sermons switch to English when describing Christ's passion and then include lengthy vernacular complaints at individual moral and social decadence (67-8). Other "favorite topics" include: the transitoriness of life, the degeneracy of the times, and, perhaps one of the most common topoi in late-medieval sermons, false-pride in clothing.

Many of these sermons have a very strong concentration on the Lenten season; thirty of the forty-three sermons were used for occasions from the first Sunday in Lent to Easter (66). Many also appear to have been directed at a clerical audience as they include such phrases as "Reuerendi", "Reuerendi domini", " Nos religiosi, monachi, et fratres" and, on at least one occasion, refer to the Rule of St. Benedict (71- 72). But Wenzel also notes instances in which the internal evidence seems to suggest a mixed audience of both clergy and laypersons.

In Chapter 5, Wenzel examines the "macaronic texture" of these sermons. After suggesting and dismissing several possible interpretations to explain their macaronicity, Wenzel claims that there was no motivating force to switch languages (98). None of the forty-three sermons use mixed- language grammatical and stylistic features (alliteration, macaronic doublets, parallelism) frequently or systematically enough within their macaronic texture to justify the change in language. Indeed, Wenzel rejects the common perception that the sermon writers often switched to the vernacular when they lacked a Latin term or when the English came to their mind more readily than the foreign equivalent. He then mentions many examples of a technical word appearing in the same sermon both in Latin and English. Furthermore, he cites further instances of English idiomatic phrases which have been rendered awkwardly either in Latin (calques) or macaronically (100-1).

Having determined the apparent randomness of the macaronicity of the sermons, Wenzel devotes his final chapter to an examination of "bilingualism in action". This chapter is without a doubt, both the most synthetic and the most controversial in the work. He begins by making some general observations about these sermons. First, all of them use detailed scholastic structural devises and could not possibly have been delivered "off the cuff". Second, there is no evidence that these macaronic sermons were complied from notes or reportationes; although they appear to have been written for readers, there is strong internal evidence that they were in fact preached (106).

The problem of these sermons lies in the relationship between their oral delivery and the way they have been preserved. An older tradition, popularized by Lecoy de la Marche, asserts that all sermons preached to the laity were delivered in the vernacular language, while sermons for the clergy were preached in Latin. Whatever language the preacher used in his oral presentation, the sermon was written down in Latin. This assertion clearly requires further refinement when dealing with macaronic sermons.

Wenzel attempts to clarify the connection between the oral delivery and the actual written text by examining the "mental conception" which preceded the actual sermon. Wenzel suggests that the "basis" or what he calls the "Gestalt" of these macaronic sermons was probably a vernacular "text" (108-9). But to give this mental conception a written form, the sermon writers then turned to Latin. (Wenzel avoids the term "translation" as it assumes a concrete exemplar.) The obvious problem with this argument is that the writers chose to include vernacular words within the Latin text.

Wenzel addresses this issue by hypothesizing that these sermon writers may not have observed a strict dichotomy between Latin and English. The writers of these macaronic sermons would have been both functionally and fluently bilingual. The original mental conception of the sermon could have therefore been expressed bilingually (112).

By using recent linguistic studies of bilingualism, Wenzel highlights the concept of "code-switching". Fluent bilinguals often use a pattern of code-switching, defined as "the seemingly random alternation of two languages both between and within sentences" (113). "Code-switching" should not be understood as a deliberate borrowing of words and phrases from one language to another, but should rather be seen as a "discourse strategy" that parallels style-switching (Wenzel cites the use of the historical present in conversation) in monolingual speakers (114). Fluent bilinguals, like monolinguals, are able to switch styles in speaking, but they have a much wider repertoire of possible styles and words from which to choose. These macaronic sermons could therefore have been written by functional bilinguals who employed a form of code-switching. But were these sermons actually preached, and is so, for what audience?

Wenzel next examines the extant evidence with regard to bilingual preaching. Although many references exist to sermons preached in the vernacular and later composed in Latin, there are also examples of preachers using two languages within the same sermon. Preachers are known to have occasionally preached material first in Latin and then in the vernacular (120). When preaching to an audience composed of both clerics and the laity, preachers often switched to Latin "lest they scandalize the laity" or out of respect for authoritative texts (121). In his handbook of preaching, Robert Basevorn reported that English preachers sometimes gave the division of a sermon in Latin to deter lay people from preaching (123).

Although none of the above-mentioned instances imply an intrasentential form of macaronicity, other examples exist which would suggest that "full C" sermons were actually preached. Fra Tommaso Antonio of Siena is reported to have "given a devout sermon in Latin before the people and, according to custom, aliqualiter in vulgari" (123). Moreover, the statutes of the Carthusian Order decree; "Let it be up to whoever gives the sermon to speak Latin or vulgar or in a mixture" (123).

The main argument against the preaching of macaronic sermons presumes that the audience was monolingual. This objection would, of course, no longer remain valid if one could prove that the audience was bilingual. Wenzel then notes that in many cases the manuscripts containing type C sermons were "collections made by and for a monastic readership"; moreover, individual sermons within these collections "were preached to a clerical audience or to one that contained both clergy and laypersons, often at Oxford or some monastic community" (124). In these cases, the conditions for macaronic preaching would have been fulfilled as the audience would have been primarily clerical or monastic and therefore bilingual.

Wenzel's final argument for macaronic delivery stems from what he calls the "near-oral" style of the sermons (125). The shifts from Latin to English occur "as smoothly and 'naturally' as they do in the code-switching of bilingual speakers" (125). After providing a long excerpt to support this claim, Wenzel suggests that these bilingual speakers created a mixed language made for special bilingual audiences (127). Furthermore, this invention, Wenzel claims, does not appear to have been "an intentional stylistic device" but emerged rather as a natural result of "written discourse by fluent bilingual speakers" (127). He thus concludes that the mixed Latin of these macaronic sermons indicates that as late as the early fifteenth century, Latin was very much a living idiom in English clerical and monastic circles.

Overall, Wenzel's work is an extremely important contribution to the field of medieval sermon studies. It raises many difficult questions about bilingual preaching in late- medieval England and offers credible solutions. Wenzel's new typology of macaronic sermons is indispensable and provides, for the first time, a truly rational way of categorizing disparate types of linguistically mixed elements within sermons. His use of recent theories about bilingualism with respect to macaronic sermons is innovative, and succeeds in placing such sermons within a distinct milieu. One would very much like to see how Wenzel's conclusions about bilingualism in late-medieval England would compare to the rest of the continent.