Bibliography and Travel Plans for Reading Manuscripts!

Last semester, I conducted a broad study of the reception history of the Psalms, especially as they relate to Jewish impact on translations into English. I concluded by deciding on a specific topic of study: Rashi’s influence on  the Wycliffite translation of the Psalms through the postillae of Nicholas of Lyra. My next steps would be to:

  1. Come up with a bibliography of manuscripts to study more closely.
  2. Understand the history of these manuscripts, how they can be read, and start reading what transcriptions of them are available.
  3. Obtain funding to study these manuscripts.
  4. Study said manuscripts.

It was easy to conclude that I should read the Wycliffite manuscripts housed in the Bodleian Library and the British Museum in London, as these are the sources in which I will look for trickled-down influences from Rashi.

Bodleian Library, Oxford University
The Bodleian Library is one of the greatest libraries in the world, especially for reading original manuscripts! It’s been a perennial dream of mine to read manuscripts at Bodley.

In the first week of winter break, I applied for the Currey Seminar scholarship, which I won in February. This would pay for a large chunk of a trip to read manuscripts in England, but it would not be enough to fully cover my trip. Early in the Spring semester, I also applied for the Halle Institute-Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry Undergraduate Global Research Fellowship. This offers a heftier grant with other benefits, including a residency at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry. A few weeks ago, I was incredibly grateful to learn that I also won this scholarship. Together, these scholarships will fully fund a 3-week trip to England for me to read and compare the various Wycliffite manuscripts.

In the meantime, I have been working on a list of specific manuscripts to pay special attention to. I used a number of books charting the many extant Wycliffite manuscripts, but by far the most useful book was Elizabeth Solopova’s Manuscripts of the Wycliffite Bible in the Bodleian and Oxford College Libraries. This book provides not only a list with basic facts, but also all kinds of details. I combed through the book, compiling a list of the manuscripts with relevant details. I plan to reread this compilation (which also includes information from other books) and pick out the especially relevant points of significance.

Bilingual Wycliffite Manuscript
A bilingual (Latin and English) manuscript of the Later Version of the Wycliffite Psalter. MS Arundel 104, f. 364v. The text colors and markings have significance as they pertain to the process of translation.

I’ve also read a very useful and suitable manual by Conrad Lindberg titled A Manual of the Wyclif Bible, Including the Psalms (Stockholm Studies in English CII). This discusses in micro and macro details what we know of the process by which the Wycliffite translations came about. It is a wonderful philological manual, and though I found it to be slow reading, it was important for the purpose of familiarizing myself with the Wycliffite translations. Moreover, it uses the Psalms as examples for its analyses, which fits perfectly with my topic!

(On a side note, today I started learning Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms in choir. We are performing the Chichester Psalms in honor of his 100th birthday. It’s a lot of fun! Bernstein, a Jewish conductor, wrote this composition for the Chichester Cathedral Choir–another example of inter-religious cooperation.)

Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein was better known as a conducting virtuoso, but he also worked hard to establish himself as a composer. West Side Story is perhaps his most iconic work of musical composition.

This Spring Break, I walked to the Decatur County Superior Court Law Clerk and submitted my application for a US Passport (my most recent passport has expired). Currently, there are quite a few different developments going on in my research, and it can be a bit difficult to keep each of them moving forward at the same time. Starting April 1, I will begin the process of planning the trip: purchasing tickets (which means that I also have to figure out the other moving parts of my summer!), booking AirBNB or University dorm rooms, coming up with an agenda, gaining access to the Bodleian Library (Dr. Morey will be of great help here), contacting such Oxford Psalms Network academics as Susan Gillingham, etc. My plan is to visit Oxford in July.

I also was recently reminded of the Society of Biblical Literature. I missed the Call for Papers, although this really is not a big deal–I am not yet a member, so it would have been a bit of a process to submit a speaking proposal. Nonetheless, I think it would be meaningful to attend the national Annual Conference in Denver this upcoming November 17-20 (right before Thanksgiving!) It is always important to see the progress and development happening in related fields. In any case, I think it would be wise to become a member of the SBL some time down the road.  (If I were to attend the conference, I’d arrive early for a meeting of the Society for Post-Supersessionist Theology on the afternoon of November 16.) SBL’s International Conference is in Helsinki, Finland and will take place July 30 – August 3, which could be a pretty epic addendum to my time in Oxford, but I am also hoping to volunteer at a summer camp from July 29th – August 5th. I will have to think further about this conflict. For now, I am leaning towards the summer camp.

Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado

With my understanding of the three main texts of interest (Rashi’s commentaries, Lyra’s postillae, Wycliffe’s translation), I should read them in earnest; previously, I’ve mostly either scanned through them or read bits and pieces here and there. Now that I better understand their historical and hermeneutical context, I think it is time for me to read them with care. I have a book of Rashi’s commentaries as well as Wycliffe’s translations (both Early and Late Versions). Lyra’s postillae are unfortunately quite elusive, despite their huge influence in the Middle Ages; for the most part, they have not been translated, published, or even transcribed. As such, my best bet is to read around the postillae and use my rudimentary (but growing!) knowledge of Latin to figure out relevant passages in scans of manuscripts, which are available. I am still trying to think of a more efficient way to tackle this problem, but for now this will do. There is always more secondary literature, and I continue to read up on it.

Another difficulty I am facing is the following: Rashi, Nicholas, and Wycliffe are all unqiue for their literal approach to understanding the Bible, an approach that had a revolutionary effect on Christian exegesis. Despite the enormous significance, it is less exciting to point out “literalisms”–and, in general, significant “literalisms” are more difficult to find. I will continue to examine the philological specifics of these texts. I think the best thing for me to do at this point is to continue to familiarize myself with the texts themselves, to immerse myself in them. From here, I will have a better idea of how to discuss this significance of the literal approach. I’ve often thought that research is somewhat like cooking scrambled eggs: only when you bring some of the spatula’s movement into the eggs will anything start to take shape. I look forward to jumping into this next phase of research and seeing what fascinating shapes appear!

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