Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe

February 16th, 6 pm, NYU Med-Ren

“Praise Zealously, Weep Sorrowfully: Managing Affect in the Old English Metrical Psalms,”

Katherine O’Brien O’Keefe 

 “Praise Zealously, Weep Sorrowfully: Managing Affect in the Old English Metrical Psalms.”

Thursday, February 16 at 6:00 PM
19 University Place, room 222

The Old English Metrical Psalms of the Paris Psalter have been generally dismissed by modern readers for their lack of heroic vocabulary and tropes and their astonishing fondness for adverbs. Yet evidence of their citations between the tenth and twelfth centuries shows that the Metrical Psalms were the early English equivalent of a best seller. Understanding the contemporary appeal of the Metrical Psalms requires investigating the work of these translations in the context of late-tenth-century elite lay piety. The register of these translations and their reliance on adverbs resonate with pastoral concerns that Christians pray the psalms with inward devotion and appropriate affects. In the absence of the performative circumstances for praying the psalms in monastic and secular clerical communities, the adverbs of the Metrical Psalms work as affective cues to direct the laity how to feel while praying each psalm in private devotions.

Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe is Clyde and Evelyn Slusser Professor of English Emerita, University of California, Berkeley.

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