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Title: Hearts and minds : the formation of identities in Anglo-Saxon literature
Author: Tovey, Bethan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2732 6174
Awarding Body: Oxford University
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis aims to take a bottom-up approach to questions of Anglo-Saxon identity. Whereas recent studies have tended to begin with a concept such as Englishness or gender and used it as a glass through which to view Anglo-Saxon texts, I will instead begin by considering some of the basics of identity and considering how they may coalesce to construct more complex identities such as ethnicity. The first two chapters deal with the mind and intellect. They consider the bases of identity which may be found in the use of words, education and wisdom. Chapter one considers the processes of structuring identity through words, whether spoken or written. It focuses on the tensions between orality and literacy, considering the authority and status that each, in its different ways, may confer on individuals who use them well. Chapter two considers the role of communal wisdom and what it means to be wise. It asks whether wisdom is a type of identity in itself or something which is inherent in a range of different identities. Chapters three to six explore the physical aspects of identity. Chapter three identifies potential sources of conflict between secular culture and Christian ideas of bodily integrity, particularly in the area of sexuality. Chapter four examines the ways in which sexuality is subsumed in a concern with lineage, and goes on to consider the role of family in characterising an individual's reputation and virtue. Chapter five considers the results of physical impairment. Impairment is seen to be stylised and treated in a highly symbolic manner, becoming an outward sign of other kinds of identity, such as evil or holiness. Finally, chapter six considers the role of violence in constructing identity, examining the pain and suffering of saintly martyrs and the paradigms of heroism found in Beowulfand The Battle of Maldon. It asks whether it is possible for Christian and heroic identities to coexist in a single individual. The conclusion surveys the idea of "Englishness", seeking to show how this concept is informed by numerous other types of identity. It questions whether Englishness informs other types of behaviour, or is informed by them. It ends by advancing the idea that any study of Anglo-Saxon identity must take into account the multiplicity of identities available to individuals in the period.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available