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“On Anginne”: Anglo-Saxon Readings of Genesis

by Fulk, Angela Beth

Abstract (Summary)
My dissertation focuses on the plethora of references to the book of Genesis that are found in Old English literature, easily more than exist for any other book of the Bible. The project traces both the ways that this Scriptural narrative impacted the newly-Christianized society of the Anglo-Saxons and the unique interpretations of Genesis that this culture produced. Central texts for this analysis include Beowulf and the Genesis poem, along with the illustrations of the Genesis narrative found in the Junius Manuscript and the Old English Illustrated Hexateuch. The methodology is modeled on current paradigms in cultural history, such as the “contact zone” theories of Mary Louise Pratt, the research of Caroline Walker Bynum, and the comparable analysis of the Exodus poem published by Nicholas Howe. Section One examines the pagan religious beliefs and practices of the Anglo-Saxons, insofar as these may be ascertained by the scant surviving textual evidence and archeological relics, and demonstrates how the narratives of Genesis were used to provide a bridge for the Anglo-Saxons between pagan and Christian culture. Section Two discusses the political implications of Anglo-Saxon retellings of Genesis. Genealogies and other texts that incorporate Genesis material not only provided the Anglo-Saxons with a new sense of cultural identity based on their perceived role in history, but also served to strengthen the institution of Anglo-Saxon kingship. The discussion of the impact of Genesis on Anglo-Saxon social customs in Section Three centers on examining the story of Cain and Abel in light of the Germanic tradition of blood-feud and on considering how Anglo-Saxon concepts of gender roles shaped their interpretations of the female characters of Genesis, such as Eve.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Miami University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:genesis anglo saxon christianity paganism kingship

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2008

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