Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Medieval Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Otto Grundler

Second Advisor

Timothy C. Graham

Third Advisor

Paul A. Johnston Jr.

Fourth Advisor

Thomas N. Hall

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The Old English prose homily on the phoenix, which is found in two manuscripts, Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 198 (eleventh century), and London, British Library, MS Cotton Vespasian D. xiv (twelfth century), is the subject of this thesis. The study addresses the homily's imagery, sources, and context.

Comparison of the homily with two of its closest analogues, the Old English verse Phoenix and its source, the Latin De ave phoenice attributed to Lactantius, reveals that, in spite of similarities, the homily was based upon neither; its source likely was an overtly Christian Latin text unknown to us today. In addition, there are interesting points of coincidence between the homily and the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch.

Evidence suggests that the homily was intended to be preached to a general, rather than a monastic, audience, perhaps on an occasion such as St. John's (Midsummer) Eve, June 23, or perhaps on various occasions, as needed.

Of special interest is a list of sins found in a conclusion added only to the CCCC 198 version of the homily. The author sets out to list eight principal sins but actually names eleven, including poisoning. The selection of sins suggests the influence of penitential texts.