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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 1501: Meditations: Identity, Thought, and Questioning in Old English and Anselm

Thursday 6 July 2023, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Amy Faulkner, Faculty of English Language & Literature, University of Oxford
Paper 1501-a'Þær us eall seo fæstnung standeþ': Boethian Meditation in The Wanderer
(Language: English)
Nicholas Babich, Department of English, University of Notre Dame, Indiana
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Language and Literature - Latin, Learning (The Classical Inheritance), Theology
Paper 1501-bPride in Old English Poetry: Identity Formation and Destruction in the Fallen Angels as a Group
(Language: English)
Wai-leuk Cheung, Department of English Literature, University of Birmingham
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Theology
Paper 1501-cAnselm the Fool: Meditation and the Joy of Unbelief in the Proslogion
(Language: English)
James R. Ginther, Faculty of Theology, University of St Michael's College, University of Toronto
Index terms: Monasticism, Philosophy, Theology
Paper 1501-dIntertwined Language and Spiritual Perspectives from the Vercelli Book: A Pilot Comparative Assessment
(Language: English)
Jacob Runner, School of Cultures, Languages & Area Studies / School of English, University of Nottingham
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Literacy and Orality, Mentalities, Sermons and Preaching

Paper -a:
My paper proposes that The Wanderer is a type of Boethian meditation, matching the structure of the Consolation as a spiritual journey, ascending from an inarticulate tristitia huius mundi to mystical consolation consummated by prayerful silence. My analysis will largely hinge on pushing the boundaries of an ascendant trend in Boethius scholarship that sees the Consolation as an emphatically meditative text in continuity with the Augustinian tradition. I hope to show The Wanderer's entanglement within the meditative Christian tradition, and show the pervasiveness of Augustinian thought even in secular genres.

Paper -b:
The concept of pride is central to a range of genres in Old English literature. Its representations are often variegated and at times paradoxical. An illustration of this is the poetic treatment of pride in the Fall of Angels. By examining two Old English biblical narrative poems (Christ and Satan; Genesis B), I demonstrate that it is pride which brings the wicked angels together to form an alliance to revolt against God. Meanwhile, it is also pride which destroys their created identity as angels, and ultimately separates them collectively from heaven. This dual aspect of formation and disintegration offers us a glimpse into how the early English understood pride in a broader societal and hierarchical context, which contrasts with the understanding of pride as an individual sin.

Paper -c:
Anselm of Canterbury's Proslogion has received a plethora of analyses and has been the subject of scholarly disagreement for centuries. What is often forgotten is that this text began as a solitary meditation, written in 1077 and reissued in 1083 with a prologue and chapter titles. It then gained its first serious critique around 1092 penned by Gaunilo, to which Anselm wrote a response. The result was three iterations in the textual transmission of the Proslogion, along with a fourth comprising only chapters 2-4. While the text was surprisingly stable throughout these iterations, how the reader encountered the text differed significantly. In this paper, I want to focus on the first iteration of the Proslogion which lacked a prologue and chapter titles, and so disconnect it from the later philosophical controversy and instead focus on the meditative struggles of Anselm. Despite all of his monastic training and having just written a treatise on the nature of God, he found himself doubting God's existence. The fool of the Proslogion, therefore, is not some real or imagined atheist, but Anselm himself.

Paper -d:
The Vercelli Book is rarely approached as a cohesive textual entity by modern scholars, with individual texts frequently studied in isolation. Reading (2018), however, has suggested that the 'performance of selfhood' provides a unifying theme and organisational logic to the anthology. This paper tests that premise by undertaking a comparative assessment of the metalinguistic and spiritual perspectives performed across the Vercelli prose homilies and two Cynewulf poems. It elicits underlying patterns related to literacy and language awareness, and it ultimately argues that those complementary ideological constructs attained manipulable associative values bound up with sociolinguistic conceptions of religious scripture and ecclesiastical function.