Congratulations to our recent PhDs

Congratulations to Michael Elliot, Tristan Sharp, Michael Barbezat, Peter Buchanan and Sharon Teague, who all have successfully defended their PhD dissertations this year. Here’s some further information about their work:

Michael Elliot (defended in September), Canon Law Collections in England ca 600-1066: The Manuscript Evidence.
Supervisor: Andy Orchard; External Examiner: Katy Cubitt, University of York.
This dissertation summarizes the evidence for the use of canon law collections in England during the Christian Anglo-Saxon period, that is ca 600–1066. The method is text-historical, the focus being firstly on the scientific description of the primary evidence and secondly on the evaluation of that evidence to determine which canon law collections were in circulation in Anglo-Saxon England, and exactly when, where and (in some cases) to whom they may have been available. An attempt is also made (in Chapter 2) to find a place for future discussion of canon law collections within the field of Anglo-Saxon Studies—a field traditionally resistant to this particular aspect of early medieval legal culture.
This dissertation has been envisioned as primarily descriptive. Here and there, however, attempts are made to venture beyond mere description of the evidence and explore the broader significance of canon law collections to Anglo-Saxon legal culture as a whole; however, given the still nascent state of the study of Anglo-Saxon canon law, such explorations (admittedly often speculative) can only be considered preliminary to a more detailed investigation into the social, political and institutional significance of the evidence that is herein presented. This is simply to say that the definitive treatment of Anglo-Saxon canon law has yet to be—and indeed still seems far from being—written.
The appendices contain a number of transcriptions of canon law collections from Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, including the first ever transcriptions of the “Collectio Sanblasiana” and “Collectio Turonensis”, as well as transcriptions of Book 4 of the “Collectio quadripartita” and of the “Collectio Wigorniensis” (or “Excerptiones pseudo-Ecgberhti”) in four of its five versions. The appendices also contain a review of the complex historiography surrounding the latter two collections, as well as case studies of three texts that appear to have been crucial to the development of canon law in the Anglo-Saxon church―namely the “Libellus responsionum”, the “Constitutum Silvestri”, and Ecgberht of York’s “Dialogus”. While the appendixed material is intended primarily as support for the broader arguments developed in the dissertation proper, it is also hoped that scholars will find some of that material useful in its own right, and that they will use it to promote further discussion of the importance of canon law collections―especially Continental canon law collections―within the context of Anglo-Saxon England.

Tristan Sharp (defended in September), William of Pagula’s Speculum religiosorum and its Background: Law, Pastoral Care and Religious Formation for Monks, c.1215-c.1350.
Supervisor: Joe Goering; External Examiner: David Bell, Memorial University.
This dissertation examines the intersection of law and monastic literature in the “Speculum religiosorum” (c.1322), a guide to the monastic life, written by the English parish priest and doctor of canon law William of Pagula (fl.c.1300-1332). William’s “Speculum” is unique among monastic treatise in that it incorporates a long compendium of monastic law. The introduction provides context for the Speculum through an overview of the history of monastic reform from the mid-eleventh century to the fourteenth. In chapter one, I examine the manuscripts of the “Speculum religiosorum”, its relationship to William’s other works, and its sources. The non-legal contents of the “Speculum” come mostly from the Bible, the Fathers, and Cistercian writers, but I show that William’s sources for this material were more recent compilations, such as Thomas of Ireland’s “Manipulus florum”. In chapter two I argue that the “Speculum” belongs to a category of texts that I call “encyclopedic manuals of monastic formation,” but that the work also has an important relationship with sermons and preaching aids. Chapters three and four cover the legal contents of the “Speculum”. Chapter three is an overview of monastic law from Gratian’s “Decretum” to the “Clementines” (1311), with an emphasis on the English context. In chapter four, I argue that William’s legal methodology is more sophisticated than that of other compendia of monastic law in fourteenth-century England. I further argue that William encourages his audience to internalize law through the tools of monastic meditative reading, and I provide parallel examples from other monastic contexts. In Chapter five, I argue that wisdom is the governing theme for the “Speculum” as a whole. William’s conception of wisdom combines elements from Augustine and from monastic exegesis of Biblical wisdom literature. I conclude by observing that “Speculum” does not allow for neat a division between pastoral, legal, and monastic literature.

Michael Barbezat (defended in August), Doubt, Faith, and the World to Come in Peter of Cornwall’s Book of Revelations.
Supervisor: Joe Goering; External Examiner: Barbara Newman, Northwestern University.
This dissertation explores the relationship between doubt and faith as it appears in a large collection of visions and revelations from the turn of the thirteenth century, entitled the “Liber revelationum”, or the “Book of Revelations”. The “Liber revelationum” was compiled in London by an Augustinian canon named Peter of Cornwall around the year 1200. Peter claims that he collected revelations because there are those who do not believe that God exists, that human souls live on after death, or that there is anything invisible or spiritual. Peter’s revelations provide demonstrations of the reality of these beings to those who believe only “the things they see.” My work explores this apparent scepticism in light of the manuscript’s contents and context, focusing on the first book of the collection dealing with proofs for life after death.
I argue that the contents of this manuscript complicate the picture of medieval doubt offered by many scholars. Rather than seeing doubt solely as a threat or potential solvent to faith, Peter’s collection takes the potential for doubt as an opportunity. Peter’s work results from what he took as a central epistemological problem facing human beings: because of sin, humanity has lost the ability to directly know God. As a result, it is natural to doubt His existence as He cannot be known through experience. Peter’s revelations address this doubt. These revelations, however, can never completely bridge the fundamental separation between the spiritual and the material worlds.
To understand the dialectic between seen and unseen in the collection, I use various interpretive frames such as Morrison’s “hermeneutics of empathy,” the Augustinian “realm of unlikeness,” and Rosenwein’s emotional communities. The visionary narratives that Peter collected play along the hermeneutic gap that defines not only revelatory literature but far larger aspects of medieval doubt, belief and affective experience. In fact, the contents of the “Book of Revelations” illustrate how visionary and revelatory literature at the turn of the thirteenth century could be arranged by a contemporary participant to demonstrate how doubt and the fallen human state, which makes doubt possible, can participate in the formation of belief.

Peter Buchanan (defended in June), Phenomenal Anglo-Saxons: Perceptions, Adaptation, and the Poetic Imagination.
Supervisor: Andy Orchard; External Examiner: Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe, University of California, Berkeley.
This dissertation articulates a theory of adaptation for the Anglo-Saxon literature in which metaphors of embodiment mediate the reception of poetic works: when we read, our bodies get in the way. Central to my work is the understanding that the embodied situatedness of poets adapting materials from other sources informs the literature that they produce. I explore the material and textual conditions through which the writings of the period reveal themselves and seek to understand how these contexts shaped the reception of earlier writings. Poetic texts filled with sensory detail provide a framework for their own reception. My approach to textual phenomena is informed by reading in the phenomenological tradition of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as expressed by the work of philosophers such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Gaston Bachelard, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Jean-Luc Marion.
Chapter One argues for a parallel relationship between the flesh of Christ and the medieval book in the reception of Prudentius. Their shared flesh allows the Word to appear in the world by taking on the animal nature of a life characterized by suffering.
Chapter Two considers the suffering of the saints in Aldhelm’s “Carmen de virginitate”. This suffering constitutes a form of affective piety that provides a framework for the desirous reception of holy bodies and also of the textual corpora of early authors.
Chapter Three argues that in Felix’s “Vita Guthlaci”, eating and reading reveal the body’s permeability. Guthlac’s ingestion of hallucinogenic mold and Felix’s reception of Aldhelm appear as a demonic attack that imbricates saint and hagiographer in the textualized landscape of the fen.
Chapter Four analyzes the role of visual perception in the ekphrastic presentation of the phoenix as it appears in Lactantius’s Latin poem and its Old English translation. The interrelation of ekphrasis and translation as modes of perception grants the phoenix both literary and material forms.
Chapter Five argues that crossing the Red Sea in “Exodus” embodies the theory of textual interpretation explicated by Moses in which the keys of the spirit reveal hidden truths. The crossing becomes a fusion of horizons, as the waters lower to reveal old foundations.

Sharon Teague (defended in March), Patterns of Bequest within the Family: Testamentary Evidence from the Ecclesiastical Registers of Canterbury and York c. 1340-1440.
Supervisor: Michael Gervers; External Examiner: Joel Rosenthal, Stony Brook University.
This dissertation examined the strategies and decisions made by 200 English testators who used their wills to provide for the safety and success of their spouses and children. From this analysis, patterns of bequest emerged that were clearly linked to testators’ gender and marital and social status. External factors, such as the type of tenure by which the family held property also played a primary role. Those who held by military or feudal tenure made choices strongly shaped by the rules of English common law and custom; those who held by burgage tenure cared for their family within the framework of customs and statutes established for an urban environment. Husbands, for example, entrusted their wives with the role of executor, while widows chose their sons, and widowers their friends and clergy. Analyzing bequests to children revealed that commoner parents, unlike their chivalric counterparts, exhibited little bias toward their offspring based on the child’s gender. Parents influenced by the rights of primogeniture, however, strongly favored their sons and their sons’ families.
The wills selected were chosen from two sources: James Raine’s “Testamenta Eboracensia” and E. F. Jacob’s “The Will Register of Henry Chichele”. The sample included 76 women (48 widows, 23 wives, and 5 single women) and 124 men (104 husbands and 20 widowers) whose wills were probated between c. 1340 and 1440 in the ecclesiastical courts of either York or Canterbury, England. The goal, to understand more clearly the familial behavior and politics involved when parents and spouses transferred power and property, made it essential that the analytical methodology employed be both flexible and accurate.
Microsoft’s Access database allowed the findings to shape the results, avoiding as far as possible the imposition of 21st-century categories on fourteenth- and fifteenth-century sensibilities.