In the cultural shift from impairment to disability, the level of agency preserved or denied has a direct influence on the important question of lived reality. In Anglo-Saxon hagiographical texts, impaired individuals are often portrayed as passive recipients of care – as ‘objects’ in and on which the saint demonstrates divine power. At the same time, these sources are full of impaired individuals directing their care and their cure, with only the saints themselves having more agency in cure narratives. By examining agency and opinions on agency in cure narratives, a better understanding of the lived realities of impaired individuals can be reached.
The Old English Life of St Nicholas sketches one of the earliest English depictions of merchant mariners as a tight-knit community. We take ‘maritime culture’ for granted when we consider Anglo-Norman texts, but as an Anglo-Saxon translation, this hagiography uniquely emphasizes the vital role that the community of seaborne traders had on seafaring nations. Nicholas’s maritime miracles are intimate interventions; he rights a ship ‘as if he was one of them’ and engages in delicate negotiations with traders with whom he has close ties. As a text of translation and lexical transition, this is an important witness to the evolution of trade in English literary culture.
As perhaps the best-known Anglo-Saxon archbishop of Canterbury, the 10-century St Dunstan was the subject of hagiographical material by the anonymous clerk B., Adelard of Ghent, Obsern and Eadmer of Canterbury, and William of Malmesbury. This paper concerns two episodes in the 11th and 12-century written tradition of the Life of Dunstan that modern scholars have conventionally taken to refer to allegations of the illicit study of charms and magic made against the saint in his lifetime, but which may alternatively refer to secular entertainments more generally. It will trace the transmission and development of these episodes through the manuscript evidence of the hagiographical tradition, in order to determine their precise meaning for their original and subsequent hagiographers.