Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 3539
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Emblom , Katherine.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Forbuga&00F0; unrihtwisnesse: Sin and Sexuality in the Transmission of Aelfric's "De initio creaturae"
  • Source: Old English Newsletter 33, 3 (Spring 2000): Paper presented at the Thirty-Fifth International Congress on Medieval Studies, The Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University, May 4-7, 2000
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Ælfric, Abbot of Eynsham- De Initio Creaturae Latin Literature Literature- Prose Sexuality in Literature Sins
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 10
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  • Abstract: “De Initio Creaturae,” the first sermon in Ælfric's “Catholic Homilies,” is one of Ælfric's most-copied works, appearing in over eleven manuscripts dating from the late tenth century to the beginning of the thirteenth. By recounting God's grace through the history of humanity' s disobedience and redemption, the sermon urges its listeners to live godly lives. Not surprisingly, sins of sexuality, a by-product of Adam's disobedience, occupy a prominent place in the narrative. What is surprising, however, is that the early manuscripts offer a vision of the nature of prelapsarian sex and reproduction, while the later manuscripts delete these references. As a result, the manuscript tradition of “De Initio Creaturae” helps to chronicle changes in cultural attitudes toward sin and sexuality. Clare Lees' recent work on Anglo-Saxon sexuality helps establish the cultural context of Ælfric's comments about the sinfulness inherent in sexual reproduction. A comparative analysis of tenth-, twelfth-, and thirteenth-century versions of “De Initio Creaturae,” in conjunction with Sherry Reames' exploration of the cultural significance of manuscript variants as an indication of mouvance, or meaningful textual instability, yields insights into sin and sexuality. The manuscript tradition of “De Initio Creaturae” suggests a shift in the audience and use as the debate on celibacy and chastity moved from monastic to lay religious practices. [Reproduced by permission of the editor Robert L. Schichler and the editors of the Old English Newsletter.]
  • Author's Affiliation: Indiana University
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2000.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973
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