Legend of Holy Women, A
A Translation of Osbern Bokenham's Legends of Holy Women
Notre Dame Texts in Medieval Culture
Published by: University of Notre Dame Press
- ISBN: 9780268012953
- Published: December 1992
Sheila Delany's spirited translation of Osbern Bokenham's Legendys of Hooly Wummen (1443–1447) makes available in modern English the first all-female hagiography. Closely translated from elaborate, Latinate Middle English verse into fluent prose, A Legend of Holy Women contains the Augustinian friar’s version of the stories of 13 women saints from gospel, apocrypha, martyrology, and high-medieval history. As Delany writes in her comprehensive introduction, “Bokenham gives us 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 fifteenth-century England. The translation is accompanied by full notes which, along with the introduction, make the book accessible to a wide audience. It will 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.
"We must be grateful to Ms. Delany for the assiduity of her well-researched and perceptive study of the life and works of this little known clerical poet." ~Times Literary Supplement