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“Holie Mannes Liues”: England And Its Saints In Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 108’s King Horn And South English Legendary

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Chapter Summary

A consideration of the early Middle English romance King Horn visà-vis the hagiographic texts collated with it (the South English Legendary [SEL]) in its earliest known manuscript copy, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 108 (L), opens the romance to wider interpretive dimensions for modern audiences accustomed to reading the poem in isolation or with other Middle English romances. The physical make-up of the manuscript encourages the reading of Horn through the lens of hagiography. The focus on the English lives is most clearly seen in the intimate relationship fostered among the saints, audience, and place. In L, Horn's perfection assumes even more explicit Christological significance. Overall, the saints' lives and romances of L prioritize Englishness, reflecting a thirteenth-century desire to promote, delineate, and define a stable English nation. With Horn, the scope of Englishness expands, creating a political fantasy of a larger, more saintly England.

Keywords: Bodleian library; England; Oxford; saint king horn; south english legendary (SEL)



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