Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 10054
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Smith , Scott T.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Wifes Willan: The Disruptive Female Subject in Cynewulf's "Juliana"
  • Source: Old English Newsletter 34, 3 (Spring 2001): Appendix A: Abstracts of Papers in Anglo-Saxon Studies. Conference paper presented at the Thirty-Sixth International Congress on Medieval Studies, the Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University, May 3-6, 2001, Nineteenth Symposium on the Sources of A
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Cynewulf, Poet-Juliana Literature- Verse Women in Literature
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 9
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  • Abstract: This paper conducts a critical reading of Cynewulf s Juliana as a text that demonstrates different conflicts of power. The paper takes as its initial focus the "triangle" which places Juliana between her father and the pagan lord Eleusius. Using post-structural theory, the paper constructs a hermeneutic model for reading gendered claims for power. This model allows us to examine Juliana's refusal to participate in a symbolic order that privileges the male as subject while fixing the female as subordinate object. Her assertion of a female subjectiv-ity outside of the male symbolic order threatens the security of the male subject and his position of power, resulting in Eleusuis' use of public torture and execu-tion as an attempt to return Juliana to symbolic subordi-nation. Torture in the poem functions as public specta-cle which attempts to articulate and maintain the power of the sovereign subject. Juliana resists her ordeals through her Christian faith, resulting in the erosion and final destruction of Eleusius as male subject. The text demonstrates this deterioration through the escalation of masculine anger (vrre) in the narrative and its culmi-nation in Eleusius' final paroxysm of bestial rage. The paper also considers the competitive struggle between Christ and Satan for Juliana's soul. The paper examines the interplay between this "divine" triangle and its earthly counterpart, considering potential connections between Eleusius and the demon Juliana vanquishes in her cell. As a bridegroom of Christ, Juliana escapes the restrictive demands of earthly patriarchy by entering a transcendent relationship free of subordination and violence. [Reproduced by permission of Robert Schicler, the “Abstracts of Papers in Anglo-Saxon Studies” editor, and the editors of the “Old English Newsletter.”].
  • Author's Affiliation: Western Michigan University
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2001.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973
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