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IMC 2019: Sessions

Session 327: Objects and Materialities in Old English Texts

Monday 1 July 2019, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Hannah McKendrick Bailey, Balliol College, University of Oxford
Paper 327-aThe Concept of Object Itinerary, Hrothgar's Hilt in Beowulf, and the Interlace Patterns in the Book of Kells
(Language: English)
Pirkko Koppinen, Department of English, Royal Holloway, University of London
Index terms: Art History - Decorative Arts, Language and Literature - Old English, Manuscripts and Palaeography
Paper 327-bThe Actancy of Hrothgar's Throne: Another Look at the Gifstol Crux
(Language: English)
Elizabeth Matresse, Department of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Rhetoric
Paper 327-cMateriality and Runes: The Importance of Considering Material Aspects for the Reconstruction of the Ruthwell 'Crucifixion Poem'
(Language: English)
Kerstin Majewski, Institut für Englische Philologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München / Academy Project RuneS, Research Unit Eichstätt / Akademie der Wissenschaften, Göttingen
Index terms: Art History - Sculpture, Epigraphy, Language and Literature - Old English
Paper 327-dHorse Slobber and Sacred Relics: Materiality and Symbolism in Cynewulf's Elene
(Language: English)
Kathryn O'Toole, Department of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Mentalities

Paper -a:
This paper will use the concept of 'object itinerary', which is a narrative tool used by some anthropologists to explain the movements of objects, to examine and unpack the object itinerary of Hrothgar's hilt in Beowulf. I will define the concept of the object itinerary and the agency of objects - which is central to the concept object itinerary - and apply these concepts to the hilt's movements and argue that the illustrations in, for example, The Book of Kells provide an analogy for object itineraries and the movements of material object in the poem.

Paper -b:
This paper applies the New Materialist work of James Feibleman, Bill Brown, and Jane Bennett to lines 168-169 of Beowulf to view the gifstol as an actant in its interaction with Grendel. Previous scholarship has suggested that the lines belong to an earlier part of the poem due to their perplexing grammatical structure. However, I argue that reading the gifstol as an actant resonates with the grammar as written and with the way other objects in the scene are portrayed, thereby setting up the symbols of Hrothgar's power as capable of repelling Grendel, rather than simply serving as symbols of Grendel's exclusion from Heorot.

Paper -c:
Abundant research has been done on the 8th-century Ruthwell Cross, and of late The Ruthwell Crucifixion Poem carved in runes on two panels has received more attention. About one-fourth of the text is illegible; many scholars reconstruct the runes from the closely related Dream of the Rood (Vercelli Book) but neglect material aspects such as form, space, and the properties of the object. This paper argues that considering factors like the space for the runes on the sandstone, or the poem's relation to other liturgical texts and images on the Cross are crucial for the reconstruction. Thus, The Dream is not the only source we should rely on.

Paper -d:
A horse's bit is an essential tool for allowing a horse and rider to communicate - but positioned in the horse's mouth, it acquires a good deal of slobber and grime (and requires frequent cleaning). To put it bluntly, bits are disgusting. Yet when Constantine's mother recovers the nails of the true Cross in the Old English Elene, she orders these sacred relics to be fashioned into a bit for Constantine's horse. This paper explores how Constantine's bit exists simultaneously as a powerful symbol and a material object, suggesting that its unpleasant material reality ultimately strengthens its symbolic function.