Call for Translations

The Old English Homilarium is an open-source archive of new, fresh, modern English* translations of the corpus of homilies in Old English**. The translations of Benjamin Thorpe are now quite old (published in 1846), and there have few efforts to render large numbers of homilies to bring these texts alive to new generations of scholars, students, and enthusiasts (such as Richard Kelly’s Blickling Homilies in 2003). The job is vast: there’s no way I could do it alone, so I am seeking contributors to tackle their interests and add what they like, in their own voice.

My other website, the Old English Narrative Poetry Project is massive as well, containing translations of about 79% of the extant verse corpus, all done by me, and there’s still a ways to go. However, OE poetry alone is not entirely representative of the range of literary tones, timbres, and temperaments voiced in early England. The Homilarium rectifies the situation by bringing a new body of texts into public view. Homilies (sermons) were the mass media of their day, aimed at early English audiences from a wide range of social standings, and this is why I wish to make them available for teachers and other readers—they represent a more conversational, approachable, everyday kind of Old English than Beowulf has led generations of modern readers to expect.

 The plan is to organize the site’s translations by manuscript rather than author (though there would cross-referencing), as a way to foreground contexts and readers for whom these texts were composed, as well as the scribes and bookmakers who preserved these voices for us. There should be conversations about how the texts that surround these homilies could be incorporated into the site. That means multiple versions of the same homily, perhaps created by different translators, would be appropriate. I would also love to have a repository of transcriptions of original texts attached to the translations.

The fundamental value of this project is broad, unapologetic inclusion, bringing in students as well as scholars, at many levels of expertise and interest, from institutions both humble & lofty. I especially want to provide a platform & space of support for scholars who have often been marginalized from & ignored by early English studies. This effort will require peer-review & partnership, so readers as well as writers are needed.

I have ideas about style but those would be better settled after some discussion with contributors. My basic value is freshness: eschewing overly archaic language & constructions for immediate communication with new audiences, though I respect many different approaches to translation. Using dynamic synonyms and thinking about the rhythms of performed speech. These are the bases of sermons: they ought to ring with life. Other basic ideas include adopting gender-neutral language when humanity or the faithful are addressed as a group and not capitalizing the pronouns for the divine. Other needs & usages are negotiable.

If you are interested in participating in any way at all, little or big, please get in contact with me at my Rutgers email: I’ll take offers on a first-come first-serve basis, and some texts are already starting to be claimed. I especially welcome collaborators & conspirators who would like to help guide this project forward. A “born digital” project of this magnitude would most likely require outside funding, so those options are there to be explored.


* To start. If you do translations into other languages, we can talk.

** Again, if we want to get crazy (and why not yeah?) we can think about homilies from other language traditions from the British Isles as well (Welsh, Irish, Scots, Old Norse, Cornish, whatever)