Memory and remembering : Anglo-Saxon literary representations and current interpretations of the phenomena considered
Striking similarities between Anglo-Saxon and present-day notions of MEMORY and REMEMBERING can be discerned through close analysis of Old English representations of these phenomena. Where there are significant dissimilarities, these are manifested as culturally specific nuances rather than fundamental differences between the two forms of expression. In this thesis, Anglo-Saxon literary representations of MEMORY and REMEMBERING are considered in comparison with current interpretations of the concepts as revealed through idiomatic Modern English and also in scientific discourse. Although the Anglo-Saxons did not have the same understanding of MEMORY as is found in modern scientific accounts, these do provide a comparatively objective measure against which to gauge the remembering activities portrayed in Old English texts and Modern English idiom. A detailed exploration of the memory retrieval continuum, together with close examination of actual language use, allows for a degree of quantification not achievable through more impressionistic approaches to the field. This is achieved by analysing the contexts in which the Old English verb gemunan and noun gemynd are used: the figurative representations of MEMORY and REMEMBERING adopted by both Old English and Modern English speakers are also considered. Misconceptions about tenth-century MEMORY representation -- that Anglo-Saxon writers have no notion of 'self', or that nostalgia is the dominant aspect of REMEMBERING within Old English texts -- are challenged by my findings. In order to arrive at a definition for each specific occurrence of an Old English MEMORY term, a range of contextual factors needs first be considered: manuscript context and the type of text, who is remembering and what they are remembering, and what other mental or emotional activities are occurring concurrently. A better understanding of the role of MEMORY is attained through recognition of its critical place within the wider field of COGNITION.