IMC 2006: Sessions

Session 1101: Desire, Piety, and Emotion in Old English Poetry

Wednesday 12 July 2006, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Hugh Magennis, School of Arts, English & Languages, Queen's University Belfast
Paper 1101-aThe Anglo-Saxon Aesthetic of Desire
(Language: English)
Jerry Denno, Department of English, Nazareth College, Rochester
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Mentalities
Paper 1101-bDesire and Power in Old English Metrical Charms
(Language: English)
Emily Baynham, Department of English, University of Sydney
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English
Paper 1101-cRevisiting the Past: Reminiscence and Emotion in Old English Poetry
(Language: English)
Paula Frances Tarratt Warrington, Department of English, University of Leicester
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English
Abstract

Abstract paper -a: Representations of a particular trope of attenuated desire–a longing for reintegration or reunion–recur in Anglo-Saxon texts. The poignance and ubiquity of this trope indicate something beyond the Augustinian notion of human exile, suggesting a fascination with the psychic state of longing, especially as experienced aesthetically. Texts including “Advent,” “The Wanderer,” and “The Dream of the Rood,” as I argue, support this perception of an aesthetic of desire.

Abstract paper -b: ‘No man must enchant a herb with incantation’, wrote Ælfric, ‘but with God’s words bless it, and so eat it’. Charms combine words and gestures to change the world according to the performer’s desires. Yet how do charms which do not explicitly employ ‘God’s words’ achieve this personal desire, without compromising Christian piety? This paper considers several Old English metrical charms in which the performance of certain gestures is also reported within the spoken incantation, and uses Searle’s classification of illocutionary speech acts to reveal ways in which the relationship between words and gestures creates a matrix within which words themselves are empowered.

Abstract paper -c: Emotion plays an important role within remembering: strong emotional reactions tend to be retained in the memory over a considerable period of time, and may act as a catalyst for subsequent action. Reminiscence, in particular, often involves a strong emotional element. Reminiscing may provoke a useful response, or may mire the rememberer in the stifling emotions of the past, unable to function in the present. Longing for the unattainable can be debilitating. However, when what is desired seems attainable, the emotion can be empowering. In this paper, I shall explore this dichotomy, as revealed within the Old English poetic corpus.