Interview with Dr. Paul Patterson – SJU English Professor


Paul Patterson



Dr. Paul Patterson is an Associate Professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University, as well as the director of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation Studies Program. His first book, A Mirror to Devout People, will be published on May 17, 2016.






Can you tell us a little bit about the history of A Mirror to Devout People?

The Mirror to Devout People is part of tradition of medieval religious “lives of Christ” that told the story of Christ’s life in Middle English, the language Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in and spoke. It was against the law to translate the Bible into the vernacular, so the Church created these lives of Christ to give parishioners access to biblical accounts. The Mirrorwas initially written for a sister of the Order of St. Bridget of Sweden by a monk of the Carthusian Order. They had religious houses south of London that were located across the Thames from each other. Eventually, a copy of the Mirror made its way into the hands of the Scrope family, wealthy parishioners whose family helped bring the Bridgettines to England.

How did you become involved in this project?

The project began as my doctoral dissertation. My dissertation director, Professor Jill Mann, suggested I edit the Mirror since it was an important text but there was no edition.

What did the process of editing this book entail?

There are two hand-written manuscript copies of the Mirror, one at the University of Notre Dame and one at Cambridge University in England. The most important thing was to transcribe both manuscripts and compare the variations. Than I created a base text-based on the Cambridge manuscript and began tracking all the differences between the two texts. That meant a lot of trips to England! Finally, I compiled notes on the two manuscripts, on the text itself, wrote an introduction, and created a glossary or dictionary of the important words. The entire process from the beginning of the dissertation to its publication took eleven years.

What audience do you think this book will attract?

The audience will be those interested in medieval religious history, professors, and graduate students. It is published through the Early English Text Society by Oxford University Press, which is a series. A variety of people subscribe to the series and they will each receive a copy.

Do you have any advice for aspiring editors at Saint Joseph’s University?

Editing a critical edition is very different from the kind of editing one might do at a publishing firm. If a student is really interested in editing critical editions, then she should pay close attention to critical editions that are currently in print. How do editors organize them, what decisions do they make when choosing what variations between existing texts to include, and how do those decisions change the text? And read. Read everything from textual and editing theory to works of literature. The best editors are the best readers.

This interview originally appeared in the Spring 2016 English Department Newsletter, edited by Sarah Sutherland, ’16.

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