IMC 2005: Sessions

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-bTwo Kentish Laws Reconsidered: A New Reading of Æthelberht, Chapters 83 and 85
(Language: English)
Carole A. Hough, School of Critical Studies (English Language), University of Glasgow
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Law
Paper 1001-cMeaning in Hiding: Deciphering Wulf and Eadwacer
(Language: English)
Csaba Oppelt, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
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.
The contention of my paper, based upon recent historical & archaeological research, will challenge traditional suppositions regarding her real identity, her place in chronology, the likelier origin of her cult centre and its function.

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.