Shiela Delany's translation on Osbern Bokenham's "Legendys of Hooly Wuumen" (1443-1447) makes available in modern English the first all-female hagiography. Closely translated from elaborate, Latinate Middle English verse into prose, "A Legend of Holy Women" contains the Augustian friar's version of the stories of 13 women saints from gospel, apocrypha, martyrology, and high-medieval history. As Delany writes in her comprehensivre introduction, "Bokenham gives not only an all-female hagiography - an authorial decision significant in its own right - but a gallery of powerful, articulate women who are indubitably worthy to do God's work. Some of them are well-educated, some give sound political advice to a monarch, some preach, converting hundreds and thousands to Christianity, some walk on water or perform resurrection. Nor are they pacifists; on the contrary, they call for divinely inflicted vengeance and approve violence in their cause." Delany argues that Geoffrey Chaucer's "Legend of Good Women" provided a principle of selection and of arrangement for Bokenham's array of saints.
She suggests further that the friar's choice of all-female hagiography, and his poetic representation of holy women, are closely linked to patronage and politics in 15th-century England. The translation is accompanied by full notes, which, along with the introduction, make the book accessible to a wide audience. It should appeal to all readers interested in the representation of women in late-medieval culture as well as to scholars and students in medieval, renaissance, religious, and women's studies.
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- ID: 9780268012953
English, middle (1100-1500)
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