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French writing in the cloister: four texts from St Albans Abbey featuring Thomas Becket and Alexander the Great, c. 1184 - c. 1275

Handel, Katharine (2015) French writing in the cloister: four texts from St Albans Abbey featuring Thomas Becket and Alexander the Great, c. 1184 - c. 1275. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis focuses on four insular French texts produced between c. 1184 and c. 1275 that can be connected to the abbey of St Albans: Beneit of St Albans' Life of Thomas Becket, four fragmentary illustrated leaves known as the Becket Leaves, Thomas of Kent's Roman de toute chevalerie (a romance about Alexander the Great), and the anonymous Estoire le rei Alixaundre. Despite St Albans' wealth and status in the Middle Ages, these texts have received very little attention from literary scholars. I have rectified this by providing detailed readings of all four texts. My work also considers the texts' potential audiences, taking into account both monastic and secular reception, and reads them in the light of their contemporary literary, cultural, and political circumstances. Throughout, the thesis considers the implications of the choice of French as a language of composition. It uses predominantly literary methodologies in a historicising mode, and also examines the manuscript culture of each text. This thesis is split into two parts, each with two chapters and an introduction setting the St Albans texts into their wider literary contexts. The first half of the thesis deals with the lives of Thomas Becket, with particular reference to how the two St Albans texts are distinct in the corpus of biographies of Becket in their approaches to Becket and Henry II. The second half covers the two narratives of Alexander the Great, which are the only surviving insular French Alexander texts. Analysis of these four exceptional texts provides an insight into the audiences St Albans was hoping to attract and also the abbey's attempt to style itself as a counsellor to those in power.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Monastic literature; vernacular literature; St Albans Abbey; insular French.
Academic Units: The University of York > Centre for Medieval Studies (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.675116
Depositing User: Ms Katharine Handel
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2015 16:15
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/11350

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