In Old English literature, the stereotypically pejorative power of animal association depends upon a negative figuration of the bestial (e.g. Vikings described as wælwulfas – slaughter-wolves). However, the emerging field of animal studies challenges us to move beyond a literary analysis of the figural beast to that of the actual animal. A reconsideration of the portrayals of such creatures as St Edmund’s wolf or St Cuthbert’s ravens shows that a knowledge of the actual, rather than metaphorical, animal and its ecology can be crucial to a fuller understanding of both the animal and its function as other in Old English texts.
Alterity is an all-pervasive concept in the Old English poem Judith. Holofernes, the Assyrians and even Judith exhibit various degrees of otherness both in an Anglo-Saxon context and in the context of its deuterocanonical source. We may expect that where interpersonal, sociocultural, and spiritual alterity is recognised or even emphasised, exclusion plays a particularly prominent role, and yet the dynamics of the protagonists’ integration in or exclusion from the in-groups (i.e. the Bethulians and the Anglo-Saxon audience) are more complex than may first be anticipated. Paying special attention to the diction and imagery in the poem, my paper will explore these dynamics and shed further light on Anglo-Saxon notions of self and otherness.