Freolic, sellic
An ecofeminist reading of Modor Monigra (R.84)
in Riddles at work in the early medieval tradition
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Recent studies of Exeter Book riddles and Old English literature have begun to reveal their ecological underpinnings, drawing on ecocriticism to explore the relationship between human beings and the rest of the created world. There is still much to explore in this growing field, including the relationship between the oppression of the natural world and the oppression of women. This chapter discusses Old English texts from an ecofeminist perspective, exploring the representation of, and forging links between, these two oppressed groups. It suggests that, where texts like The Wife’s Lament and The Order of the World depict both nature and women as dominated by an androcentric and anthropocentric worldview, a number of Exeter Book riddles challenge such depictions, offering us, for example, the depiction of water as both a feminine natural force and a celebrated monstrous female that is sellic (‘wonderful’) and freolic (‘free’). Drawing on recent ecofeminist scholarship in the field of eco-theology, this chapter suggests that certain riddles, including Modor Monigra (R.84), interrogate the human- and male-centred nature of wisdom and free early medieval women and the natural world from patriarchal oppression.

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