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Title: The journey of young souls in early medieval England (c.850-c.1050)
Author: Flowers, Jennifer Elaine
ISNI:       0000 0004 9355 3762
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis explores the complex theological beliefs about young souls expressed during the late Anglo-Saxon period. Scholars have paid surprisingly little attention to the theology of the soul between the ninth and eleventh centuries except in relation to its fate after death. Yet, the living soul appears prominently in Latin and Old English prose and verse demonstrating the extent to which beliefs about the whole of the soul’s life journey were still evolving. So great an interest did contemporary writers show in questions relating to the origins of the soul and its early experiences that it proved impossible to address the whole life journey of the soul from creation to judgment within the space of a single doctoral thesis. This thesis therefore focuses on the life journey of the young soul up to the cusp of adulthood, following pivotal moments from the birth of the soul to its adolescence. The first substantive chapter analyses the transfer of beliefs about the soul’s origin across this period from a Neoplatonic stance arguing for the soul’s pre-existence to a Creationist outlook. The second chapter questions the point at which the soul was first believed to enter the body and addresses the inconsistencies surrounding ensoulment during the period. The next chapter addresses ideas about the state of a child’s soul at the start of corporeal existence and the degree to which we can tell that the Anglo-Saxons believed in an inherited condition of original sin. The fourth chapter asks how long the soul received immediate entrance into heaven after baptism and where Anglo-Saxon writers drew the spiritual boundary between childhood and adulthood. A conclusion addresses the necessity of looking further into Anglo-Saxon beliefs about the life journey of the soul. The following epilogue studies souls outside living bodies to demonstrate the diverse and dynamic beliefs which continually appear in later Anglo-Saxon sources.
Supervisor: Foot, Sarah Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Medieval Religion ; Ecclesiastical History ; Anglo-Saxon