Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS. 278: Embodying Community and Authority in Late Medieval Norwich

Title: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS. 278: Embodying Community and Authority in Late Medieval Norwich
Authors: Burbridge, Brent E.
Date: 2016
Abstract: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS. 278 is an early-fourteenth-century trilingual manuscript of the Psalms from Norwich Cathedral Priory, an urban cathedral church staffed by Benedictine monks. This manuscript is notable because it contains one of six Middle English Metrical Psalters, the earliest Middle English translation of the Psalms, as well as a full Anglo-Norman Oxford Psalter, the most popular French translation of the Psalms in late medieval England. While the Middle English Metrical Psalter is a remarkable and understudied text in and of itself, the Metrical Psalter of CCC 278 is even more interesting because of its monastic provenance and innovative layout. This thesis explores the questions of why a monastic institution would produce a manuscript of two complete, prominently displayed, vernacular Psalters with only highly abbreviated Latin textual references; what sociolinguistic and political forces drove the production of this innovative manuscript; and how the Middle English Metrical Psalter in particular was read, and by whom. Because there are no annotations, colophon, prologue or external documentation to provide clues to either the intended or actual use of the manuscript by the Priory monks, this thesis undertakes a detailed historicization and contextualization of the book in its urban, religious, linguistic and social settings. In addition, the lenses of community, mediation, and authority are applied, leading to the conclusion that CCC 278 and its Middle English Metrical Psalter were likely used by the monks to reach out to Norwich’s élite laity in order to form a mixed reading community around the book—a reading community controlled by the Priory.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -