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Title: The language of wealth in Old English literature : from the conversion to Alfred
Author: Faulkner, Amy
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis analyses the language used to refer to wealth, and attitudes towards wealth, in the Old English literature of the earlier part of the Anglo-Saxon period. I firstly consider poetry such as Beowulf, the Junius 11 Old Testament poems and the works of Cynewulf, in order to develop an understanding of the treatment of wealth in vernacular literature before Alfred's reign, but the primary concern of the thesis is with the canonical texts of the Alfredian corpus: the Pastoral Care, the Boethius, the Soliloquies and the first fifty Prose Psalms. While my focus is on these texts, given their stylistic and linguistic similarity, I also refer to other works associated with the Alfredian programme, including the Orosius, the Dialogues and the Bede. Although this thesis is not directly concerned with the issue of Alfred's authorship, the conclusions nonetheless support the case for a unified, Alfredian context for the canon, based on ideological similarities between all four texts and the Alfred Jewel. This thesis combines elements of comparative reading and word study, distinguishing it from previous studies of the Alfredian texts. My methodology makes use of digital corpora, allowing me to situate the linguistic trends of the Alfredian texts within the wider Old English corpus. The topic of wealth highlights a significant difficulty facing the Alfredian author(s): the confrontation between the native, vernacular tradition, in which the appreciation of material wealth plays a central role, and the Latin, Mediterranean source texts, which treat wealth as false and fleeting. The accommodation between native, Germanic culture and imported Christianity had obviously been ongoing since the conversion. However, this particular moment is worth attention as the Alfredian corpus represents the crest of the growing wave of literary, vernacular prose that had been building momentum in the form of the more pedestrian Mercian translations, such as the Dialogues and the Bede. Moreover, wealth is particularly significant in the Alfredian context, given the striking pairing with wisdom in the prose preface to the Pastoral Care, a pairing manifested in the Alfred Jewel, which in all likelihood accompanied the translation. This thesis demonstrates that the texts of the Alfredian corpus share an ideology which recognises the usefulness of wealth while nonetheless warning against the dangers it poses as a distraction from the pursuit of wisdom. I suggest that this balanced perspective implies a secular or mixed context for the translations. My analysis of wealth, with particular focus on language, shows that the corpus encourages its readers and listeners to redirect their attention from material riches, useful though they may be, to the riches of wisdom.
Supervisor: Leneghan, Francis Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English literature--Old English