restricted access The South English Legendary: A Critical Assessment ed. by Klaus P. Jankofsky (review)
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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER The second half of Hill's argument is concerned with presenting the pastoral in the "New World" of the Renaissance. After some good survey and discussion of pastoral and arable in fifteenth- and early-sixteenth­ century literature and art, particularly fifteenth-century books of hours, the discussion settles and ends on Elizabethan pastoral. Admitting the impos­ sibiliry of discussing the Renaissance pastoral in any kind of exhaustive sense, as he had been able to accomplish for the earlier centuries, Hill selects three exemplary cases for analysis: Spenser, Sidney, and Shakespeare. In Spenser he finds the spirit of Piers Plowman still operative, though in shepherd's clothing. In Sidney the condescending voice of Gower echoes in the Arcadia. And, as we might expect, in Shakespeare a more complicated pastoral appears. Using As You Like It and The Winter's Tale as his proof texts, Hill demonstrates Shakespeare's abiliry to develop the pastoral into a symbolic moral universe; that is, the pastoral becomes a part of the harmo­ nies of Shakespeare's world vision. JOHN MICHEAL CRAFTON West Georgia College Kl.Aus P. JANKOFSKY, ed. The South English Legendary: A Critical Assess­ ment. Tiibingen: Francke Verlag, 1992. Pp. xiii, 189. DM 68 paper. This is the first book devoted exclusively to the South English Legendary (SEL) since Manfred Gorlach published The Textual Tradition of the South English Legendary in 1974. The purpose of the volume, according to its editor, Klaus Jankofsky, is to assemble essays representing diverse ap­ proaches to the SEL. Accordingly, the contents range from literary and cultural studies, to textual and linguistic criticism, to editions. The contri­ butions vary in quality, but on the whole, they are competent, informative, and interesting. They are not, however, especially stimulating. Although representative of the methods and concerns of SEL criticism over the past decade or so, they do not challenge readers to think of this important legendary in new ways, and they make only modest contributions to what is already known about the SEL. In part, this may be because the essays are so narrowly focused-most of them deal with a single legend, or even a single passage. Given the structural and textual complexity of the SEL, 210 REVIEWS such "local" studies make a certain amount of sense; however, one does not gain from this book a clearer understanding of the SEL as a whole or of its literary, textual and cultural contexts. A stronger introduction would have served the collection well. As it is, Jankofsky offers a rushed overview of SEL criticism, followed by a synopsis of the volume's contents that makes little effort to communicate. Typical of his often impenetrable style is this observation about Karen Bjelland's essay on St. George: From a hermeneutic point ofview, this essay on the cultural milieu decipherable in the creation and transmission of texts is situated at the opposite end of a spectrum that would have to cover inquiries into the nature of and reasons for the inclusion of the St. George legend, for example, in the very make-up of a manuscript such as that of the Northern Homilies Cycle in the Mz manuscript of the SEL, i.e., the connection between the genesis of a collection of homilies and legends and particular locales and the dedication ofchurches or chapels to a particular patron saint. [Pp. xi-xii} Fortunately, most of the essays are more readable than Jankofsky's discus­ sions of them. The first two contributions are concerned with the SEL's historical con­ text. Thomas J. Heffernan examines what he persuasively argues is an oblique tribute to the slain rebel baron Simon de Montfort embedded within the St. Dominic legend. He uses this reference to argue that vernac­ ular legendaries, such as the SEL; "were perfectly suited for political com­ mentary, since they could shield themselves from retribution beneath the cloak of religion" (p. 3), and he calls for a greater attentiveness to the political subtexts of popular saints' lives. In contrast to Heffernan, who holds the common view that the SEL was a popular work directed at laypersons, Katherine G. McMahon uses the legend of Benedict's sister, Scholastica, to...