Session 1001: Women in the Anglo-Saxon Record
Wednesday 13 July 2005, 09.00-10.30
|Moderator/Chair:||Gale R. Owen-Crocker, Department of English & American Studies, University of Manchester|
|Paper 1001-b||Two Kentish Laws Reconsidered: A New Reading of Æthelberht, Chapters 83 and 85|
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Law
|Paper 1001-c||Meaning in Hiding: Deciphering Wulf and Eadwacer|
Index terms: Gender Studies, Language and Literature - Old English
Abstract paper a) St Withburga of Dereham – supposed sister of St Etheldreda and associated with East Dereham in Norfolk.
Paper b) Chapters 83 and 85 of the law-code issued by Æthelberht of Kent c.599-602 occur within a sequence of clauses concerning women, marriage and sexual relations. Æbt 83 is the second of three clauses on abduction, specifying compensation of 20 shillings for abduction of a betrothed girl. Since the preceding clause specifies compensation of 50 shillings for abduction of a single girl, this is generally taken to be an additional payment made to the injured fiance. Æbt 85 deals with sexual relations with the wife of an unfree servant, and is generally taken to specify two-fold compensation. This paper presents a detailed re-examination of both clauses, and proposes a new interpretation of each.
Paper c) For its shortness Wulf and Eadwacer confronts its readers with too many choices constructed around its ambiguities. The paper intends to show that the range of interpretive choices can, and should be, reduced by 1) recognising that the poem’s perspective, restrained at first by elegiac and gnomic necessity, widens stepwise under the influence of emotions, and by 2) adopting a reading strategy that integrates new information in a similar stepwise manner. Such a reading also argues against the woman narrator’s passivity.