IMC 2008: Sessions

Session 1601: Signs, Symbols, and Imagery in Old English Texts

Thursday 10 July 2008, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Catherine E. Karkov, School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies, University of Leeds
Paper 1601-aRood Awakening: Vision, Compunction, and Tangible Signs of the Cross in The Dream of the Rood
(Language: English)
Mary Hayes, Department of English, University of Mississippi
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Religious Life
Paper 1601-bThe Cultivated Mind: Agrarian Imagery in Old English Texts
(Language: English)
Paula Frances Tarratt Warrington, Department of English, University of Georgia, Athens
Index terms: Biblical Studies, Language and Literature - Old English, Learning (The Classical Inheritance), Sermons and Preaching
Paper 1601-cImages of Exile and Wilderness in Guthlac A
(Language: English)
Helena Znojemská, Department of Anglophone Literatures & Cultures, Univerzita Karlova, Praha

Paper -a:
This talk examines the Rood-poet’s representation of gazing informed by Barthes’s Camera Lucida (1980). According to Barthes, the photograph is an emanation of its subject’s ‘luminances’ that once touched the photographic image’s surface and are taken in when the viewer gazes upon it. The viewer’s gaze also attends to the photograph’s punctum, a trenchant detail that seems to wound him. Barthes’s notions of photographic spectatorship resonate in the dreamer’s descriptions of the rood’s light and wounds, which suggest an emanating presence and thus disclose his desire for a tangible association with the true cross and Christ’s wounded yet glorious body.
Paper -b:
There is a long tradition of using agrarian and horticultural imagery when exploring the ‘inner experiences’ of humankind, and many such images can be found in Old English texts. Life in Anglo-Saxon England was closely attuned to the rhythms of the agricultural year, of course, and the texts available to educated Anglo-Saxons were themselves produced within predominantly agricultural settings (note, for example, the many allegorical uses of horticulture within biblical parables). In this paper, I shall show that Old English descriptions of mental processes employ such imagery systematically, particularly in the context of transmitting Christian teaching.
The paper aims to complement recent readings of the saintly hero’s venture into the wilderness in Guthlac A focusing on his appropriation and (re)ordering of that space which brings it from the sphere of the hostile and unknown to that of the pleasant and familiar. The analysis of the poem’s general vision of the world and society as well as the verbal contests in which Guthlac and the devils negotiate the right of possession to the site shows that the proposed dichotomy is complicated by the introduction of the opposition between homeland and exile, and the way it is used by the narrator, the protagonist and his tempters to define the saint’s status.