G.T. Dempsey

Aldhelm of Malmesbury

Aldhelm of Malmesbury and the Ending of Late Antiquity

Despite the extensive work on the long-neglected Aldhelm (c. 639-709) by this last generation of Anglo-Saxonists, which has succeeded in restoring him as a major subject of Anglo-Saxon studies, there has not been a book-length treatment of Aldhelm’s career as a whole in over a century.  George Dempsey’s book, as a study of Aldhelm’s complementary roles as a spiritual theorist in a nascent Christian society and as an ecclesiastical administrator, demonstrates that in both he was innovative and purposeful and that, in particular, he spoke directly to the concerns and values of his aristocratic society, responding to an experiential knowledge of the realities of power in his own world and transforming the patristic norms of Christian behavior into the heroic concepts intuitively meaningful to Germanic society.   In this, Aldhelm was unique, among his fellow Anglo-Saxon notables of his period, in being a high ecclesiastic also engaged in innovative scholarship, though he stood very much with the great figures of Christian Late Antiquity, East and West, uniformly bishops and scholarly theologians.  Thus, this book moves beyond the somewhat parochial concerns of Anglo-Saxon history to bring Aldhelm into the mainstream of Late Antique studies, a figure as fully at home with the cultural trappings of Rome as he is with Christian patristic literature.  In many ways, Aldhelm was the last significant figure of Late Antiquity in the West.

Aldhelm of Malmesbury and the Ending of Late Antiquity

(Turnhout: Brepols, 2015).

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