My research focuses on the varied ways in which the intentional and formational practice of reading interacts with those of meditation and contemplation in the medieval west, particularly in monastic culture. More particularly, I ask how literary texts throughout the medieval period (and skirting into early modernity) conceptualize the human person in terms of such cognitive and affective practices, how these texts promote particular hermeneutic perspectives, and how reading practices mediate these perspectives.
My first four peer-reviewed essays explore this broad trajectory in particular ways, one each considering the definition of the human person in Old English body-and-soul texts; the role of the discipline of meditative, ruminative reading within early medieval textual communities; the edificatory role of reading for the individual Christian in the context of contemplative anthropology in Anglo-Saxon England; and the centrality of monastic hermeneutics and voice for John Lydgate’s poetic project.
Building upon the interaction of meditative or contemplative practice, hermeneutics, and reading in my essays, my primary current research concern is a monograph focused on the interaction between prayer and meditative intentionality within a sub-genre of Old English devotional poetry I call “meditative verse prayers.” These poems appear in a variety of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts from the tenth and eleventh centuries and have generally been neglected by modern scholarship. However, I argue that these meditative verse prayers, which participate in a particularly crucial cultural practice in early medieval Christianity—prayer—served an important purpose as a tool for self-fashioning. The Old English meditative verse prayers are sites for the formation of a virtual poetic dialogue, a dialogue that described and shaped various aspects of the Christian’s life and relationship to self, world (earth and heaven), and deity.
As I move forward with this monograph, I have also just completed my first book project released by Cistercian Publications in December 2017. My translation of St. Æthelwold of Winchester’s Old English version of the Latin Rule of St. Benedict is the text’s first Modern English translation, and the work on sources that I incorporate into the book’s notes and introduction is an original contribution to the field of Old English studies. My goals for this project are three-fold: 1) to make this earliest vernacularization of the Rule—and its creative transformation of the original text—more readily available to medievalists and other interested parties, 2) to present a portrait of Æthelwold’s desires for the tenth-century Benedictine reform’s new monks and nuns through the sources he used and changes he made to Benedict’s text, so offering greater insight into Æthelwold as a bishop, abbot, translator, and person than has hitherto been possible, and 3) to provide students of Old English poetry with an often-neglected but central witness to the cultural context of this remarkable corpus of texts.
St. Æthelwold’s Old English Translation of the Rule of St. Benedict and Related Texts. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2017.
First translation into modern English, critical introduction, and appendices (including alternate chapters, Æthelwold’s account of the Anglo-Saxon Benedictine Reform called “An Account of Edgar’s Establishment of Monasteries,” and Ælfric of Eynsham’s “Life of St. Benedict”).
“De modo meditandi vel contemplandi: A Pedagogical Treatise for Novices from Bury St. Edmunds.” Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures 45.2 (2019): 139-82.
“‘Tenlvmyne’ the Laetabundus: John Lydgate as Benedictine Poet.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 115.3 (2016): 370-93.
“Dualism in Old English Literature: The Body-and-Soul Theme and Vercelli Homily IV.” Studies in Philology 112.3 (2015): 453-68.
“Homo Contemplans: The Order of the World, Gregorian Contemplative Anthropology, and Old English Poetics.” Viator 46.1 (2015): 1-20.
“Lectio Divina and Cynewulf’s Epilogues: The Poet in Community.” American Benedictine Review 65.3 (2014): 271-90.