This paper considers the ways in which the representation of movement – of bodies, through space, or metaphorical – is gendered in Anglo-Saxon literature. Feminist scholarship on Anglo-Saxon England has examined a wide range of issues – power, religion, cultural practices, authorship and literacy, work, etc. – but not movement. But movement is inextricably bound up in many of the issues above; consider religious women’s claustration, or the bodily movement necessary for production of commodities and the travel required to profit from their sale. Understanding Anglo-Saxon women’s relationship to movement, then, can help us to more fully understand women as part of Anglo-Saxon society, and this paper is part of that effort.
This essay details the use of verbs of transference in Beowulf – or the use of verbs that describe the movement of people and things, specifically sellan, gifan, hweorfan, ferian, and beran. While Beowulf’s three fights tend to take over as the structure of the poem, the transference of people and treasure into and out of nations highlights the primary anxiety of the poem: the loss of a nation’s name and reputation. The poem is thus revealed as a detailed mapping of how honour and reputation circulated throughout these central clans through treasure, women, and the bodies of kings.
Beowulf is a text that has historically resisted neat division and categorization. The odd opening genealogy, the framing inclusion of Wealhtheow, and the mourner’s abject horror at its conclusion detract from the poem’s simple linearity, and yet these ‘othered’ elements bind and structure Beowulf into a coherent whole. By examining these feminine lacunae, commonalities begin to arise, and sketch the barely present model of pre-Norman queenship. Viewed in this way, these varied feminine figures of Beowulf signal the overarching societal uncertainty and instability of kingship, which roots itself by nature and by culture through the physical body of the queen.
Anglo-Saxon England produced a vast number of secular literature across its existence. The aim of the paper is to trace foreign aspects, which influenced the literary female discourse, mainly Irish and Norse influence. I would like to establish whether the place of origin and antecedent events connected with above-mentioned nations, affected the local production of the then literature.