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Writing History for an Age of Reform: Orderic Vitalis and the Historia ecclesiastica

Powles, Tom (2019) Writing History for an Age of Reform: Orderic Vitalis and the Historia ecclesiastica. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Tom Powles PhD Thesis 2019.pdf - Examined Thesis (PDF)
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Abstract

This thesis undertakes a sustained literary reading of the thirteen books of Orderic Vitalis’ Historia ecclesiastica, in order to explore the relationship between his ideas of history writing and contemporary church reforms. Church reform is a neglected aspect of Orderic’s ecclesiastical history writing, as previous studies of the Historia have focused on Anglo-Norman political history and, more recently, Benedictine monasticism. Thus, this thesis tests how far Orderic’s Historia was a commentary on eleventh- and twelfth-century reforms, and their impact upon ordinary churchmen. By reading across all thirteen books of the Historia, this thesis develops new methodologies for navigating the text’s scale, organic structure, and non-linear chronological development. These elements of the text present a serious challenge to modern research, problematising comparative analysis between Orderic’s work and those of other Anglo-Norman history writers. This thesis aims to model new approaches in order to inform future comparative research. Each chapter examines a different kind of material, in order to explore Orderic’s engagement with reform at multiple levels and navigate a different aspect of the text’s methodological challenge: church councils; nicolaitism and noble marriage; reform ideologies; and expressions of ideas of history writing. By thus looking at a range of material, this study argues that Orderic responded critically to the efforts of church reformers and articulated a powerful defence of his monastic community’s traditions, history, and way of life. It lays emphasis on Orderic’s use of history writing as a tool to reflect upon experiences of reform. This study also uncovers Orderic’s changing engagement with church reforms throughout the decades spent writing the Historia. Consequently, it exposes Orderic’s design choices, highlighting his sophisticated appreciation of the performative social effect of history writing. It further draws attention to his evolving ideas of how to write history for an age of reform.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Centre for Medieval Studies (York)
Depositing User: Mr Tom Powles
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2020 16:22
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2020 16:22
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/25257

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