The Benedictine Reform in the 10th century offers a unique possibility to explore the way in which relations between members of the Anglo-Saxon elites supported the delivery of a spiritual message with a clear political connotation. The relations between the main actors of the Reform and the language used to describe their relationships will be investigated to enlighten the influence of ties of friendship on daily politics. The arising pattern will contribute to our understanding of the perception of friendship and its social function in the Anglo-Saxon society as contrasted to continental findings.
The paper offers a comparative reading of a sample of Old English texts employing the motif of a post-mortem encounter of soul and body. The analysis of four Old English prosaic, homiletic adaptations of the Soul’s Address concentrates on the way in which these texts negotiate two disparate impulses: to use the motif as a memento mori exemplum and as a venue for a discussion and resolution of the mutual relationship of soul and body and their responsibility for sin. Additionally, the paper will discuss the Exeter Book Soul and Body, which can be perceived as thematizing the problems inherent in the homiletic treatments of the Soul’s Address by confronting the materiality of the dead body with its function in the soul’s speech as a largely abstract repository of guilt and terror.
Analysis of the soul and body motif in the Old English Vercelli Book suggests a conception of the body as an important component of piety. Vercelli’s texts imply that the body is more than the seat of sin: it is the key to salvation. That this brand of spirituality may have been wide-spread among the laity is suggested by the number of extant copies of Vercelli’s homilies. However, the anomalous nature of the manuscript itself and the orthodoxy’s reaction to collections like it indicate that while Vercelli’s theology may have been popular, it was also potentially viewed as heretical.