Token and Promise: The Saintly Role of Royal Bodies in Ælfric's Lives of Oswald, Æthelthryth and Edmund
Author(s)Matthews, Catherine R.
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AbstractThis thesis examines the role and depiction of the body in the vitae of three Anglo-Saxon royal saints (Oswald of Northumbria, Æthelthryth of Ely, and Edmund of East Anglia); these hagiographical narratives are contained in a collection of Old English religious writings known as Lives of Saints, which was produced at the end of the tenth century by Ælfric, a Benedictine monk known for his distinctive alliterative, or rhythmical, prose style. Oswald, Æthelthryth, and Edmund are united not only by royal status, but also by the posthumous condition of each of their bodies, which were found to be partially or wholly undecayed after death. How might the fact that the bodies were distinguished in life by royal birth and in death by their incorrupt condition have affected Ælfric’s depiction of these three saints? This thesis locates each saint’s life in his or her historical context before closely analyzing Ælfric’s narrative to consider the role that the body plays in the vitae and in sanctity. The study concludes that, using a variety of stylistic techniques, Ælfric carefully focused the reader’s attention on the body in order to offer examples of the proper performance of Christianity, of the way to be a righteous and faithful leader, and of the saint as a figure of Christ in deed as well as spirit.
TypeThesis or Dissertation
Matthews, Catherine R. 2016. Token and Promise: The Saintly Role of Royal Bodies in Ælfric's Lives of Oswald, Æthelthryth and Edmund. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.