English 250

Research Seminars: Agents [and Others] in Anglo-Saxon England

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Spring 2010 O'Brien O'Keeffe, Katherine
O'Brien O'Keeffe, Katherine
Tues. 3:30-6:30 305 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Texts for “Agents (and Others) in Anglo-Saxon England":
Ælfric’s Lives of Saints, ed. W. W. Skeat, EETS o.s. 76, 82 (London, 1881-85), no. XVII.

Ælfric’s Catholic Homilies, the First Series, ed. Peter Clemoes, EETS s.s. 17 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), no. VII.

Ælfric’s Catholic Homilies, the Second Series, ed. Malcolm Godden, EETS s.s. 5 (London: Oxford University Press, 1979), no. X.

Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, ed. H. F. Stewart, et al., Loeb Classical Library 74 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1918), books IV and V.

The Old English Boethius, ed. Malcolm Godden and Susan Irvine, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), B-text, cap. 39-42.

“Carmen de libero arbitrio,” ed. Michael Lapidge, “Three Latin Poems from Æthelwold’s School,” in his Anglo-Latin Literature 900-1066 (London: Hambledon Press, 1993), 225-78 and 484-86.

Wulfstan of Winchester, Life of St. Æthelwold, ed. and trans. Michael Lapidge and Michael Winterbottom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991) (selected chapters)

Memorials of St. Dunstan, ed. William Stubbs, Rolls Series 63 (London, 1874), selections from “B,” Vita S. Dunstani; Osbern, Vita S. Dunstani.

King Alfred’s West-Saxon Version of Gregory’s Pastoral Care, 2 vols., EETS, o.s. 45, 50 (London, 1871), selections

Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, ed. Bertram Colgrave and R. A. B. Mynors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), V.6.

The Old English Version of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, ed. Thomas Miller, 4 vols., EETS o.s. 95, 96, 110, 111 (London, 1890-1898), V.6.

Bertram Colgrave, ed., Two Lives of Saint Cuthbert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1940), selected chapters.

Bischofs Wærferth von Worcester Übersetzung der Dialoge Gregors des Grossen, ed. Hans Hecht, Bibliothek der angelsächsischen Prosa 5 (Leipzig, 1900), II.xxiii-xxv
George Philip Krapp and Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie, eds., “Soul and Body II,” ASPR 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936).

The Vercelli Homilies and Related Texts, ed. D. G. Scragg, EETS o.s. 300 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), no. XXII.

Isidore, Synonyma (PL 83), selections.

Die angelsäschsischen Prosabearbeitungen der Benedictinerregel, ed. Arnold Schröer, Bibliothek der angelsächsischen Prosa 2 (Kassel, 1885), selected chapters.

G. N. Garmonsway, ed., Ælfric’s Colloquy, rev. ed. (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1978).

Florence E. Harmer, ed., Anglo-Saxon Writs (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1952),
no. 108.

Judith, ed. Mark Griffith, Exeter Medieval English Texts and Studies (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 1997).


This course will investigate questions of agency and identity (particularly religious identity) in the textual world of Anglo-Saxon England. As part of our investigations, we will begin with some early medieval engagements of predestination and free will, focusing on Anglo-Saxon negotiations of these issues in a range of philosophical, theological, and pastoral texts. We will first ask how Anglo-Saxon writers conceptualized agency and who they thought could be agents. Such questions will require some wide-ranging reading in the laws, liturgy, hagiography, monastic rules and commentary, as well as in practices of education. In probing this material we will be seeking the cultural logic at work in these texts and working toward a further set of questions: What models of agency do we wish to bring to the study of texts from a highly traditional society? What can practices regarding people who are legally incompetent (children, women, and slaves) tell us about agency in Anglo-Saxon England? What light does the abbatial relation (of abbot or abbess to subject), carefully theorized in commentaries on the Rule, shed on questions of agency? The ultimate research goal of the course will be the writing of a publishable paper.

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