IMC 2005: Sessions

Session 1301: Seafaring in Old English

Wednesday 13 July 2005, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Paul R. Cavill, Institute for Name-Studies, University of Nottingham
Paper 1301-aAloneness and Community in The Seafarer
(Language: English)
Hugh Magennis, School of Arts, English & Languages, Queen's University Belfast
Index terms: Ecclesiastical History, Language and Literature - Old English, Monasticism, Sermons and Preaching
Paper 1301-b'Eom nu her cumen on ceolþele': Nautical Terminology in Anglo-Saxon Poetry
(Language: English)
Todd Preston, Department of English, Lycoming College, Williamsport
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Maritime and Naval Studies, Social History
Paper 1301-cThe Seafarer: Looking back and Summing up
(Language: English)
Charles Harrison Wallace, Independent Scholar, Brough, Shetland
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English

Abstract paper a) This paper considers the development of The Seafarer from an emphasis on individual experience to the communal homiletic message with which th poem ends. It pays particular attention to the key passage in the poem describing the coming of old age and death to the body and it analyses the use of personal pronouns in the poem, from ‘I’ in the opening part to inclusive ‘we’ at the end. The paper argues that The Seafarer is unusual in an Anglo-Saxon context in its focus on individual and physical rather than shared and communal experience, though the poem constructs a new vision of community at its conclusion.

Paper b) Given that the Anglo-Saxons were an island people, the historical record provides surprisingly scant evidence of their everyday maritime activities. However, the poetry of the Anglo-Saxons attests to a widespread familiarity with the specifics of nautical technology. A survey of technical nautical terms used in poems such as Beowulf, Andreas, Exodus, and others shows that Anglo-Saxon authors assumed their audiences to be well versed in the mechanics of seafaring. This evidence suggests that despite the relative dearth of nautical references in the historical record, the maritime way of life was a cultural norm for the Anglo-Saxons.

Paper c) The Anglo-Saxon literary composition, called for the last two centuries The Seafarer, might be described as a reflective verse narrative prepared for oral address by a learned man in the early evening of his life. It is a monologue, in which he looks back and sums up the nature of the human condition. This paper will similarly set out to summarize, and invite agreement on, conclusions reached over the past decade, resulting from what has been primarily an interpretative approach to the poem’s structure and meaning.