Medieval English travelers go back in time as they travel East. Old English poems show ‘Widsith’ meeting Germanic and Biblical legendary figures and ‘Elene’ (Constantine’s 4th-century mother) interrogating St Stephen’s 1st-century brother. Later pilgrimage narratives (Mandeville, Margery Kempe) likewise suggest we may travel to Old Testament sites, as though Scripture has frozen them in time. While I argue that this results from rhetoric encouraging pilgrimage and crusade, such rhetoric draws on a sense that time moves more slowly nearer the world’s center – a sense connected to liturgical movement, which likewise transcends time. England, away from the center, is old, and transtemporal journeys to an eternal past rejuvenate its people.
Scholars of Anglo-Saxon now largely agree that the Beowulf-Manuscript (British Library Cotton Vitellius A.xv part ii) has a thematic compilation focused on monsters. But the fifth text, the OE poem ‘Judith’, has no monsters, which reinforces controversial claims that ‘Judith’ was added to the compilation sometime later. If, however, we read ‘Judith’ against ‘The Letter of Alexander’ as a struggle between an imperial margin and a spiritual center of geographic power, ‘Judith’ becomes a near-perfect thematic inversion of the ‘Letter’, solidifies its place within the original compilation, and demonstrates the need for scholars to revisit monster-centric interpretations of the Beowulf-Manuscript.
If an imperial eagle took to wing from Constantinople, the bird would need to fly some 2,500 kilometers to roost in London. That vast physical distance belies the close intellectual ties between the Byzantine Empire and the realms of the English. Much scholarship notes Byzantine-English connections like the Varangian Guard, or the use of Greek words on English coinage; this paper examines Byzantine theory of empire in early medieval England through the lens of agnotology and liminal definitions. The English wished to demonstrate both their independence from, and incorporation within a Byzantine political-cultural cloud. The historiographical legerdemain required to do so culminated with Edward the Confessor’s claim as ‘Anglorum basileus’, a title not passed on to his successors.