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IMC 2019: Sessions

Session 127: New Materialities in Old English Literature

Monday 1 July 2019, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Francis Leneghan, Faculty of English Language & Literature, University of Oxford
Paper 127-aVisions and Materialities of Medieval English Poetry
(Language: English)
Tomonori Matsushita, Department of English, Senshu University, Tokyo
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Religious Life
Paper 127-bWyrht and SmiĆ°: Materia in Anglo-Saxon Literature
(Language: English)
Christina M. Heckman, Department of English & Foreign Languages, Georgia Regents University
Index terms: Gender Studies, Language and Literature - Old English, Religious Life, Women's Studies
Paper 127-cMaterial Surrogacy in Old English Soul and Body
(Language: English)
Melissa Putnam Sprenkle, Department of English, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Mentalities, Rhetoric, Sermons and Preaching

Paper -a:
Paradoxically speaking, genuine nature of materialities only appear in visions and dreams in medieval English literature. Pearl and The Dream of Rood were described vividly in dreams. Though dreams do not possess any realities of things, they firmly connect significantly between dream-world and real-world various things which bear relevant psychological symbols in human minds. In Dream of the Rood words such as syllicre treow, leohte, Beama beorhtost, gold, gimmas and eaxlegespanne are used. In Pearl, Perle, proude, reken, small, smothe, sengeley and synglure appear in order to characterize special status of the pearl. Visions are mirrors of materialities of the real world and broaden psychological space of human minds from the past to the coming future and enrich scope of human understanding.

Paper -b:
Early medieval craftsmanship was a spiritual art, emulating God as artisan-creator. Human craftsman, as Mary Helms has argued, participated in the physical and spiritual transformation of 'base matter' such as wood and iron, the fundamental materia of all creation. Considered in light of recent critical re-evaluations of materia, however, such transformations become both ontological and epistemological, simultaneously producing new ways of knowing and being through the union of the material and the immaterial. This paper examines this onto-epistemological status of matter by analyzing the significance of two Old English terms, smiĆ° and wyrhta, in Anglo-Saxon literary accounts of 'making'.

Paper -c:
This paper will analyze how the condemned soul's address in Old English Soul and Body I and II uses objects on and around the body (e.g., the ring, the riches, the table, and the house) in conjunction with the objectification of the body (as earth, as food) to provide scaffolding anchoring a reader's imagining of the extreme event of judgement day and the severing of body and soul. In the context of the Vercelli Book the poem seems to synthesize with theological tradition; however, in the Exeter Book context we can see how the poet addresses the extreme offline cognition of imagining judgment day by pulling from secular Old English poetic resources for describing death and the loss of kinship ties.