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Date of Award
Dissertation-ISU Access Only
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of English: English Studies
The following project is situated at the crossroads of Anglo-Saxon studies, feminist new materialism, and life writing studies. In the narrowest sense, I explore the ways in which Anglo-Saxons, especially in the turbulent period of change in the late 10th and early 11th centuries in England, wrote about themselves and their positions in the world. And, I examine how communities, literal and figurative, shape and are shaped by the autobiographical or pseudo-autobiographical texts they produce. I take up the narrating “I”s positionality in common genres of Anglo-Saxon texts: prefaces, hagiography, and letters. These three widely produced medieval genres are not usually studied together or necessarily studied as life writing; however, I put them in conversation with each other as texts written around the same historical moment and in the same cultural context and that all rely on the first person construction to demonstrate the slippery nature between self and other in the Anglo-Saxon world. Further, I situate these texts together under the broad umbrella of “life narrative,” which is “a general term for acts of self-presentation of all kinds and in diverse media that take the producer’s life as their subject” (Smith and Watson, Reading Autobiography 4). In doing so, this project participates in the efforts of the life writing studies community to broaden its scope by including non-traditional texts (not just biography, not just traditional autobiography) and subjects (not just “great” autonomous white men), and to incorporate texts composed in the pre-modern world, a timeframe generally underrepresented in the life writing studies.
Overall, this dissertation argues that there are a variety of texts, including prefaces and pseydo-epistolaries, written during the late Anglo-Saxon period that can, and should, be productively studied as life writing, alongside hagiography, despite their non-traditional forms. Further, I argue that reading these texts together as life writing and through feminist new materialism highlights connections among beings in, and surrounding, texts. In particular, I show the ways in which various beings, both authorized subjects and those who are unauthorized including female communities, animals, and Others of all kinds frame individual first person narratives in the Anglo-Saxon context. Recognizing these narrating “I”s through their relationships with others enables us to identify, as Stacy Alaimo has framed it, the “traffic between bodies and natures” in and surrounding Anglo-Saxon texts, and invites us to examines the myriad ways in which the first person narrating “I”s are established through, and transformed by these encounters, these “intra-actions” with Others (Alaimo 253).
Gregory, Megan Alise, "Entangled Bodies in the Medieval World: Anglo-Saxon Life Writing in Prefaces, Hagiography, and Letters" (2017). Theses and Dissertations. 674.