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The Order of the Texts in the Bodley 34 Manuscript: The Function of Repetition and Recall in a Manuscript Addressed to Nuns
Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 3 (1986)
Scholars have recently begun to focus increased attention on the relationship among texts contained within a single manuscript. These studies have been beneficial for the information they shed on the role of the manuscript compiler and on his awareness of the needs of a particular audience. Through the careful selection and ordering of texts within a manuscript, a compiler could create a coherent lesson for a specific audience. In this paper I would like to show how one compiler, that of the Bodley 34 (B) manuscript, did just that. The Bodley 34 manuscript is a thirteenth-century collection of alliterative prose works in Middle English. It contains three saints’ lives (of Sts. Katherine of Alexandria, Margaret of Antioch, and Juliana of Nicomedia) and two homilies (Hali Meiðhad and Sawles Warde) and is known collectively as the “Katherine Group.” The author or authors of the individual works are not known, but the works are the product of a literary center that flourished in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Southwest England. The Bodley 34 manuscript was assembled shortly after the composition of the works and was compiled for the edification of the nuns at Wigmore Abbey in Herefordshire, England. It seems clear that B was designed to be an exhortation to the Wigmore nuns to preserve their virginity. While this may not seem to be a necessary lesson for a conventual audience, it should be kept in mind that many women at this time did not enter nunneries by choice.