Anglo-Saxon ‘things’ could talk. Nonhuman voices leap out from the Exeter Book Riddles, telling us how they were made or how they behave. In The Husband’s Message, runic letters are borne and a first-person speech is delivered by some kind of wooden artefact. Readers of The Dream of the Rood will come across a tree possessing the voice of a dreaming human in order to talk about its own history as a gallows and a rood. The Franks Casket is a box of bone that alludes to its former fate as a whale that swam aground onto the shingle, and the Ruthwell monument is a stone column that speaks as if it were living wood, or a wounded body. This book uncovers the voice and agency that these nonhuman things have across Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture. It makes a new contribution to ‘thing theory’ and rethinks conventional divisions between animate human subjects and inanimate nonhuman objects in the early Middle Ages. Anglo-Saxon writers and craftsmen describe artefacts and animals through riddling forms or enigmatic language, balancing an attempt to speak and listen to things with an understanding that these nonhumans often elude, defy and withdraw from us. The active role that things have in the early medieval world is also linked to the Germanic origins of the word, where a þing is a kind of assembly, with the ability to draw together other elements, creating assemblages in which human and nonhuman forces combine. Anglo-Saxon things teach us to rethink the concept of voice as a quality that is not simply imposed upon nonhumans but which inheres in their ways of existing and being in the world; they teach us to rethink the concept of agency as arising from within groupings of diverse elements, rather than always emerging from human actors alone.
The politics of Middle English parables examines the dynamic intersection of fiction, theology, and social practice in translated Gospel stories. Parables occupy a prominent place in Middle English literature, appearing in dream visions and story collections as well as in lives of Christ and devotional treatises. While most scholarship approaches these scriptural stories as stable vehicles of Christian teachings, this book characterises Gospel parables as ambiguous, riddling stories that invited audience interpretation and inspired the construction of new, culturally inflected narratives. In parables related to labour, social inequality, charity, and penance, the book locates a creative theological discourse through which writers reconstructed scriptural stories and, in doing so, attempted to shape Christian belief and practice. Analysis of these diverse retellings reveals not what a given parable meant in a definitive sense but rather how Middle English parables inscribe the ideologies, power structures, and cultural debates of late medieval Christianity.
This collection of essays offers new perspectives that foster our understanding
of the crucial role the Bible played in medieval culture as well as in the wake
of the Reformation across Europe. The thirteen essays open up new horizons for
the study of biblical drama by putting special emphasis on periodisation, the
intersections of biblical narrative and performance, and the strategies employed
by playwrights to rework and adapt the biblical source material. Special
emphasis is placed on multitemporality, transnationality, and the modalities of
performance and form in relation to the uses of the Bible in medieval and early
modern drama. The three aspects are intertwined: particular modalities of
performance evolve, adapt and are re-created as they intersect with different
historical times and circumstances. These intersections pertain to aspects such
as dramatic traditions, confessional and religious rites, dogmas and debates,
conceptualisations of performance and form, and audience response – whenever the
Bible is evoked for performative purposes. The collection thus stresses the
co-presence of biblical and contemporary concerns in the periods under
discussion, conceiving of biblical drama as a central participant in the dynamic
struggle to both interpret and translate the Bible.
Borrowed objects and the art of poetry examines seven Exeter riddles, three Anglo-Saxon biblical poems (Exodus, Andreas, Judith), and Beowulf to uncover the poetics of spolia, an imaginative use of fictional recycled artefacts to create sites of metatextual reflection. Old English poetry famously – and for a corpus rather interested in the enigmatic and the oblique, appropriately – lacks an explicit ars poetica. This book argues that attention to particularly charged moments within texts – especially within texts concerned with translation, transformation, and the layering of various pasts – gives us a previously unrecognised means for theorising Anglo-Saxon poetic creativity. Borrowed objects and the art of poetry works at the intersections of recent interest in materiality and poetics, balancing insights of thing theory, and related approaches with close readings of specific passages from Old English texts.
The church as sacred space places the reader at the heart of medieval
religious life, standing inside the church with the medieval laity in order to
ask what the church meant to them and why. It examines the church as a building,
idea, and community, and explores the ways in which the sanctity of the church
was crucial to its place at the centre of lay devotion and parish life. At a
time when the parish church was facing competition for lay attention, and
dissenting movements such as Lollardy were challenging the relevance of the
material church, the book examines what was at stake in discussions of sanctity
and its manifestations. Exploring a range of Middle English literature alongside
liturgy, architecture, and material culture, the book explores the ways in which
the sanctity of the church was constructed and maintained for the edification of
the laity. Drawing on a wide range of contemporary theoretical approaches, the
book offers a reading of the church as continually produced and negotiated by
the rituals, performances, and practices of its lay communities, who were
constantly being asked to attend to its material form, visual decorations, and
significance. The meaning of the church was a dominant question in late-medieval
religious culture and this book provides an invaluable context for students and
academics working on lay religious experience and canonical Middle English
This book destabilises the customary disciplinary and epistemological oppositions
between medieval studies and modern medievalism. It argues that the twinned
concepts of “the medieval” and post-medieval “medievalism” are mutually though
unevenly constitutive, not just in the contemporary era, but from the medieval
period on. Medieval and medievalist culture share similar concerns about the
nature of temporality, and the means by which we approach or “touch” the past,
whether through textual or material culture, or the conceptual frames through
which we approach those artefacts. Those approaches are often affective ones,
often structured around love, abjection and discontent. Medieval writers offer
powerful models for the ways in which contemporary desire determines the
constitution of the past. This desire can not only connect us with the past but
can reconnect present readers with the lost history of what we call the
medievalism of the medievals. In other words, to come to terms with the history
of the medieval is to understand that it already offers us a model of how to
relate to the past. The book ranges across literary and historical texts, but is
equally attentive to material culture and its problematic witness to the reality
of the historical past.
Performing women takes on a key problem in the history of drama: the ‘exceptional’ staging of the life of Catherine of Siena by a female actor and a female patron in 1468 Metz. These two creators have remained anonymous, despite the perceived rarity of this familiar episode; this study of their lives and performances, however, brings the elusive figure of the female performer to centre stage. Beginning with the Catherine of Siena play and broadening outward, Performing women integrates new approaches to drama, gender, and patronage with a performance methodology to trace connections among the activities of the actor, the patron, their female family members, and peers. It shows that the women of fifteenth-century Metz enacted varied kinds of performance that included and extended beyond the theatre: decades before the 1468 play, for example, Joan of Arc returned from the grave in the form of a young woman named Claude, who was acknowledged formally in a series of civic ceremonies. This in-depth investigation of the full spectrum of evidence for female performance – drama, liturgy, impersonation, devotional practice, and documentary culture – both creates a unique portrait of the lives of individual women and reveals a framework of ubiquitous female performance. Performing women offers a new paradigm: women forming the core of public culture. Networks of gendered performance offered roles of expansive range and depth to the women of Metz, and positioned them as vital and integral contributors to the fabric of urban life.
Over six hundred years before John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Anglo-Saxon
authors told their own version of the fall of the angels. This book brings
together various cultural moments, literary genres, and relevant comparanda to
recover that story, from the legal and social world to the realm of popular
spiritual ritual and belief. The story of the fall of the angels in Anglo-Saxon
England is the story of a successfully transmitted exegetical teaching turned
rich literary tradition that can be traced through a diverse range of genres:
sermons, saints’ lives, royal charters, riddles, as well as devotional and
biblical poetry, each genre offering a distinct window into the ancient myth’s
place within the Anglo-Saxon literary and cultural imagination.
For 700 years, Geoffrey Chaucer has spoken to scholars and amateurs alike. How does his work speak to us in the twenty-first century? This volume provides a unique vantage point for responding to this question, furnished by the pioneering scholar of medieval literary studies, Stephanie Trigg: the symptomatic long history. While Trigg's signature methodological framework acts as a springboard for the vibrant conversation that characterises this collection, each chapter offers an inspiring extension of her scholarly insights. The varied perspectives of the outstanding contributors attest to the vibrancy and the advancement of debates in Chaucer studies: thus, formerly rigid demarcations surrounding medieval literary studies, particularly those concerned with Chaucer, yield in these essays to a fluid interplay between Chaucer within his medieval context; medievalism and ‘reception’; the rigours of scholarly research and the recognition of amateur engagement with the past; the significance of the history of emotions; and the relationship of textuality with subjectivity according to their social and ecological context. Each chapter produces a distinctive and often startling interpretation of Chaucer that broadens our understanding of the dynamic relationship between the medieval past and its ongoing re-evaluation. The inventive strategies and methodologies employed in this volume by leading thinkers in medieval literary criticism will stimulate exciting and timely insights for researchers and students of Chaucer, medievalism, medieval studies, and the history of emotions, especially those interested in the relationship between medieval literature, the intervening centuries and contemporary cultural change.
From Iceland to the Americas, an anthology of thirteen original critical essays, is an exercise in the reception of a small historical fact with wide-ranging social, cultural, and imaginative consequences. Medieval records claim that around the year 1000 Leif Eiriksson and other Nordic explorers sailed westwards from Iceland and Greenland to a place they called Vinland. Archaeological evidence has in fact verified this claim, though primarily by way of one small, short-lived Norse settlement in Newfoundland, which may not even have been Leif’s. Whether or not this settlement was his, however, the contact associated with him has had an outsized impact on cultural imagination in and of the Americas. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, indeed, novels, poetry, history, politics, arts and crafts, comics, films and video games have all reflected a rising interest in the medieval Norse and their North American presence. Uniquely in reception studies, From Iceland to the Americas approaches this dynamic between Nordic history and its reception by bringing together international authorities on mythology, language, film, and cultural studies, as well as on the literature that has dominated critical reception. Collectively, the essays not only explore the connections among medieval Iceland and the modern Americas, but also probe why medieval contact has become a modern cultural touchstone.