Karen Winstead

title.none: Scahill, Middle English Saints' Legends (Karen Winstead)

identifier.other: baj9928.0610.032 06.10.32

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Karen Winstead, Ohio State University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Scahill, John. Middle English Saints' Legends. Annotated Bibliographies of old and Middle English Literature VIII. Woodbridge, U.K.: D. S. Brewer, 2005. Pp. 224. $80.00 (hb) ISBN-10 1-84384-059-6, ISBN-13 978-1-84384-059-6. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.10.32

Scahill, John. Middle English Saints' Legends. Annotated Bibliographies of old and Middle English Literature VIII. Woodbridge, U.K.: D. S. Brewer, 2005. Pp. 224. $80.00 (hb) ISBN-10 1-84384-059-6, ISBN-13 978-1-84384-059-6. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Karen Winstead
Ohio State University

Both newcomers and old hands in the field of Middle English hagiography will find John Scahill's Middle English Saints' Legends enormously useful. This annotated bibliography covers scholarship published between 1801 and 2000, principally in English, French, and German. I am familiar with a good many of the works that Scahill comments upon and found his summaries accurate and informative. The bibliography is well organized, and the indices of scholars, texts, and manuscripts make it easy to navigate. Neophytes attempting to get a handle on the field will certainly appreciate Scahill's detailed synopses of such hagiographical classics as Gordon Hall Gerould's Saints' Legends or Theodor Wolpers's Die englischen Heiligenlegenden des Mittelalters. Entries on monographs often conclude with summaries of reviews of those monographs. The annotations themselves are succinct and non- evaluative summaries of the contents and major arguments of each work.

The bibliography's 641 entries are divided among thirteen headings, most long enough to call chapters but some as short as half a page, with entries listed chronologically under each heading. Eight of the thirteen cover Middle English legendaries: the South English Legendary, the Vernon Legendary, the Northern Homily Collection, the Scottish Legendary, the Speculum Sacerdotale, Mirk's Festial, Bokenham's Legends of Holy Women, and a collection of sermons in Bodleian MS Hatton 96. Scholarship on the 1438 Gilte Legende and Caxton's hagiography (both his Golden Legend and his freestanding lives) comprises a separate heading, as do the alliterative St. Erkenwald and the writings of John Capgrave. Scholarship on other or broader topics can be found in the catch-alls that begin and conclude the bibliography: "General Works" and "Independent Legends." Each section is headed by a brief overview of critical trends that also cross-references relevant scholarship listed elsewhere in the volume.

As the overview above indicates, some major hagiographers and texts are absent. Scahill reasonably excludes texts covered in extant or forthcoming bibliographies; omitted on this principle are saints' plays, the lives comprising the Katherine Group, and the hagiographical writings of Chaucer and Lydgate. More idiosyncratic is the exclusion of lives of Anne on the grounds that they "belong to the much-ramified genre of biblical narrative" (2), although lives of Mary Magdalene and of the Three Kings of Cologne are covered. Also regrettable is the exclusion of texts, such as those of Alexander Barclay and Henry Bradshaw, that might fall outside a strict definition of the medieval period but are nonetheless deeply indebted to medieval traditions. One wishes Scahill had acted on his temptation to "extend the bounds of this survey to the 1530s," even if doing so would "involve including texts that no one would consider as Middle English" (2). The English Reformation is a far more natural terminus than 1500, and setting the volume's purview as pre- Reformation hagiography would have encouraged a crossing of arbitrary boundaries that could only benefit the study of English hagiography.

"General Works" and "Independent Legends" might have been better organized. The former consists of seventy-six editions or studies that deal with more than one saint's life, the latter of almost a hundred editions or studies of individual lives. For such masses of diverse material, straight chronological listings are unwieldy. Readers would have been better served had the works on multiple legends been divided into "Editions" and "Studies" and the remaining materials organized by saint.

This structural glitch is largely compensated for by the excellent indices, however, and my other cavils are few. William Paris's life of Christine, with five entries, is, to me, at least as deserving of its own heading as the Vernon Golden Legend, the Speculum Sacerdotale, or the anonymous Hatton sermon collection, under each of which there is only one entry. There should be at least seven entries under Paris: articles by Mary-Ann Stouck--in Medievalia et Humanistica (1997) and in Warwickshire History (1994)--were overlooked. Symon Wynter should be named as the author of the prose life of Jerome that was later incorporated in the Gilte Legende. Neither Wynter nor Paris have entries in Scahill's generally thorough and systematic indices.

In sum, this is a reference that serious scholars of Middle English hagiography will want to consult, especially when entering the field or broadening their interests; I wish such a volume had been available when I was starting out. While one might have wished for a broader coverage, what is covered is done exceedingly well, and readers will gain a good understanding of the development of the field and of what remains to be done.