Wulfstan Criticism - Essay

Dorothy Whitelock (essay date 1941)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Whitelock, Dorothy. “Archbishop Wulfstan, Homilist and Statesman.” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. 4th series (1942): 25-45.

[In the following essay, originally delivered as a speech in 1941, Whitelock outlines evidence concerning Wulfstan's life and literary activities in the early eleventh century.]

When Wulfstan II, archbishop of York from 1002 and bishop of Worcester from 1002 to 1016, alias Lupus episcopus, died at York on 28 May 1023, his body was taken for burial to the monastery of Ely, in accordance with his wishes.1 From the twelfth-century historian of this abbey we get the only mediaeval account of the...

(The entire section is 7513 words.)

Dorothy Bethurum (essay date December 1942)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Bethurum, Dorothy. “Archbishop Wulfstan's Commonplace Book.” PMLA 57, no. 4, part 1 (December 1942): 916-29.

[In the following essay, Bethurum studies the collection of manuscripts known as Wulfstan's ‘commonplace book,’ suggesting Wulfstan's use of its mostly Latin contents in composing his homilies and other works, including the Canons of Edgar and Institutes of Polity.]

MSS CCCC 190 and 265, Bodley 718 (2632), Junius 121 (5232), Nero A 1, and Bibl. Paris MS Fonds Latin 3182, all from the end of the tenth or beginning of the eleventh century, contain a great many common entries relating to the affairs of a bishop and have been studied with some...

(The entire section is 6421 words.)

Angus McIntosh (lecture date 11 May 1949)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: McIntosh, Angus. “Wulfstan's Prose.” Proceedings of the British Academy 35 (1949): 109-42.

[In the following excerpt from a lecture delivered on 11 May 1949, McIntosh identifies five principle styles of Old English writing, including the unique two-stress phrasing of Wulfstan's prose, which he reserves for special analysis.]

When the British Academy honoured me with an invitation to deliver this lecture, I thought at first of speaking about the alliterative measure. It was on the poetry written in the various forms of this measure that Sir Israel Gollancz worked for the greater part of his life, to the advantage of all who have come after him, and it would...

(The entire section is 14335 words.)

Stephanie Hollis (essay date 1977)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Hollis, Stephanie. “The Thematic Structure of the Sermo Lupi.Anglo-Saxon England 6 (1977): 175-95.

[In the following essay, Hollis analyzes the complex thematic pattern of Wulfstan's eschatological homily Sermo Lupi ad Anglos as it follows the moral decline of England to its culmination in disaster.]

Sermo Lupi ad Anglos has attracted far more attention by its subject matter than have other Wulfstan sermons, because its apparent topicality is of interest to students of the Old English period. Like all Wulfstan's sermons, though, it has been chiefly esteemed for its forceful oratory—it is this sermon, indeed, which is responsible for...

(The entire section is 10155 words.)

Raachel Jurovics (essay date 1978)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Jurovics, Raachel. “Sermo Lupi and the Moral Purpose of Rhetoric.” In The Old English Homily and Its Backgrounds, edited by Paul E. Szarmach and Bernard F. Huppé, pp. 203-20. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1978.

[In the following essay, Jurovics explicates the Sermo Lupi ad Anglos, arguing that Wulfstan's most well-known homily—an impassioned call for repentance and a return to Christian morality—is entirely consistent in tone and style with his remaining works.]

Because of its style and subject Dorothy Bethurum argues that the Sermo ad Anglos, though the best known of Wulfstan's works, is in some respects the “least...

(The entire section is 5972 words.)

Stanley B. Greenfield and Daniel G. Calder (essay date 1986)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Greenfield, Stanley B., and Daniel G. Calder. “Ælfric, Wulfstan, and Other Late Prose.” In A New Critical History of Old English Literature, pp. 68-106. New York: New York University Press, 1986.

[In the following excerpt, Greenfield and Calder briefly survey Wulfstan's major writings, largely comparing his work with that of his Anglo-Saxon contemporary Ælfric.]

Wulfstan first appears in the historical records as bishop of London from 966 to 1002; from 1002 to his death in 1023 he was archbishop of York and bishop of Worcester, though he relinquished the latter see in 1016, or, perhaps, appointed a suffragan. While he was at York, he instituted reforms in...

(The entire section is 3054 words.)

J. E. Cross and Alan Brown (essay date 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Cross, J. E. and Alan Brown. “Literary Impetus for Wulfstan's Sermo Lupi.Leeds Studies in English 20 (1989): 271-91.

[In the following excerpt, Cross and Brown suggest that a military-themed sermon by Abbo of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is a likely source text for Wulfstan's Sermo Lupi ad Anglos.]

‘No work smells less of the study.’ So Dorothy Whitelock firmly concluded her discussion of literary influences bearing on Wulfstan's Sermo Lupi ad Anglos.1 Yet one written source for two of the three versions of the sermon has been recorded,2 the citation of Alcuin's reference to Gildas.3 Professor Whitelock also...

(The entire section is 5713 words.)

A. P. McD. Orchard (essay date 1992)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Orchard, A. P. McD. “Crying Wolf: Oral Style and the Sermones Lupi.Anglo-Saxon England 21 (1992): 239-64.

[In the following excerpt, Orchard investigates the principal elements of Wulfstan's homiletic style, maintaining that the “essence of Wulfstan's technique is repetition.”]

Archbishop Wulfstan enjoyed a high reputation as a stylist amongst his contemporaries; when he was still bishop of London (996-1002) one correspondent spoke of the ‘very sweet wisdom of [his] eloquence and the richness of [his] composition fittingly organised’, whilst the wide dissemination of his sermons and their susceptibility to imitation bear dual witness to his...

(The entire section is 8660 words.)

Jonathan Wilcox (essay date 2000)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Wilcox, Jonathan. “The St. Brice's Day Massacre and Archbishop Wulfstan.” In Peace and Negotiation: Strategies for Coexistence in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, edited by Diane Wolfthal, pp. 79-91. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2000.

[In the following essay, Wilcox concentrates on Wulfstan's relationship to the English massacre of Danish settlers in 1002 in order to discern the Archbishop's views on reconciliation and peaceful coexistence in a Christian polity.]

As a preacher and legislator in late Anglo-Saxon England, Archbishop Wulfstan was in a position to play a significant role as peacemaker in violent and divisive times. The archbishop's attitude...

(The entire section is 5822 words.)

Jonathan Wilcox (essay date 2000)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Wilcox, Jonathan. “Wulfstan and the Twelfth Century.” In Rewriting Old English in the Twelfth Century, edited by Mary Swan and Elaine M. Treharne, pp. 83-97. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

[In the following essay, Wilcox considers the reasons for the steep decline in the rhetorical appeal of Wulfstan's homilies after the Norman Conquest of England.]

Some Old English preaching texts were kept alive by being copied in the twelfth century more than others were. … Ælfric's homilies were re-used quite extensively; Wulfstan's homilies, by contrast, were re-used significantly less. In the eleventh century, Wulfstan's sermons were copied...

(The entire section is 5681 words.)