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Vera Lex Historiae? Constructions of Truth in Medieval Historical Narrative

eds. Catalin Taranu and Michael J. Kelly

Published onNov 08, 2021
Vera Lex Historiae? Constructions of Truth in Medieval Historical Narrative
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Vera Lex Historiae? Constructions of Truth in Medieval Historical Narrative

Edited by Catalin Taranu and Michael J. Kelly

Imprint: Gracchi Books

  • ISBN: 978-1-68571-030-9

  • Paperback, 5×8 in., B/W, 300pp.

  • Publication date: March 24, 2022

  • Price: $23

  • BISAC: HIS037010, REL108020

  • Thema: NHDJ, 3KH, 1D

  • Categories: History, Middle Ages

Writing circa 731 CE, Bede professes in the introduction to his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum that he will write his account of the past of the English following only vera lex historiae. Whether explicitly or (most often) implicitly, historians narrate the past according to a conception of what constitutes historical truth that emerges in the use of narrative strategies, of certain formulae or textual forms, in establishing one’s own ideological authority or that of one’s informants, in faithfulness to a cultural, narrative, or poetic tradition. If we extend the scope of what we understand by history (especially in a pre-modern setting) to include not just the writings of historians legitimated by their belonging to the Latinate matrix of christianized classical history-writing, but also collective narratives, practices, rituals, oral poetry, liturgy, artistic representations, and acts of identity – all re-enacting the past as, or as representation of, the present, we find a plethora of modes of constructions of historical truth, narrative authority, and reliability.

Vera Lex Historiae? will be constituted by contributions that reveal the variety of evental strategies by which historical truth was constructed in late antiquity and the earlier Middle Ages, and the range of procedures by which such narratives were established first as being historical and then as “true” histories. This is not only a matter of narrative strategies, but also habitus, ways of living and acting in the world that feed on and back into the commemoration and re-enactment of the past by communities and by individuals. In doing this, we hope to recover something of the plurality of modes of preserving and reenacting the past available in late antiquity and the earlier middle ages which we pass by because of preconceived notions of what constitutes history-writing.

Catalin Taranu is a literary-historical scholar working on the vernacular poems and cultures of early medieval England and Francia. He has taught medieval literature and Old English and has shared his research on Beowulf, medieval rhizomes of narratives, and vernacular theories of truth and history in talks and publications. Catalin is currently a postdoctoral researcher at New Europe College, Bucharest, where he studies the socio-emotional economy of shame and honor in medieval heroic poetry. His first book, titled The Bard and the Rag-Picker: Vernacular Verse Histories in Early Medieval England and Francia (forthcoming from Routledge), explores alternative modes of early medieval historical representation.

Michael J. Kelly lectures history, critical theory, and the philosophy of history at Binghamton University (SUNY) and is Director of Networks and Neighbours and Gracchi Books. His publications include Isidore of Seville and the “Liber Iudiciorum”: The Struggle for the Past in the Visigothic Kingdom, The Medieval and Early Modern Iberian World 80 (Boston and Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2021) and the volume Theories of History: History Read Across the Humanities (London: Bloomsbury, 2018). He is currently preparing a monograph on the concept of in/humanity in early medieval theology.

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