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Exemplary Intentions Two English Dominican Hagiographers in the Thirteenth Century and the Preaching through exempla

Sebastian Sobecki
New Blackfriars
Vol. 89, No. 1022 (JULY 2008), pp. 478-487
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43251251
Page Count: 10
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Exemplary Intentions Two English Dominican Hagiographers in the Thirteenth Century and the Preaching through exempla
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Abstract

The exemplum is a short edifying tale that uses a historical person's positive or negative character traits to make a moral point. Its homiletic suitability ensured the genre's widespread use throughout premodern Europe. Not only were exempla effective preaching instruments on which a travelling friar could rely, but they also were extremely elastic in their application. A closer look at two late thirteenth-century English texts, Ralph Bocking's Latin Life of St Richard of Chichester (Vita sancii Ricardi) and the Life of St Dominic in the anonymous South English Legendary, a Middle English cycle of saints' lives, will explore two original ways in which mendicant hagiographers attempt to conceal and yet betray their intentions through their choice of hagiographie exempla. The first, I argue, petitions the patron, Isabella of Arundel, for a gift to the Order of Preachers, whereas the second text shows evidence of having been composed by a Dominican friar.

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