Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 17353
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Burgess , Christopher.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Cynewulf's "Juliana" and the Art of Eloquence
  • 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 Rhetoric
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 9
  • Related Resources:
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract: This paper takes issue with a widely held opinion that the style of Cynewulfs "Juliana" displays, in editor Rosemary Woolfs words, "a uniformity verging on monotony." I argue instead that the poem is stylistic achievement, and is, in fact, a conscious effort at participation in a core part of medieval intellectual life - the maintenance of Christian culture by means of rhetoric. More specifically, it participates through a mode of rhetoric which classical Latin authors called the grand style. Cynewulf aimed at a synthesis of native and imported traditions by adapting Old English poetic conventions to his Christian subject, and by means of a deliberate stylistic departure from his Latin source (the "Acta Julianae," which clearly conforms to the low style common in Latin Christian writing of the time). The outcome: a new variation of the elusive Christian grand style. Although the "genera dicendi" - the levels of "elecutio," or style - were never more than a part of the rhetorical theories of the Roman rhetoricians, they became central to the Christian rhetoric of St. Augustine, who turned the Ciceronian concept of "decorum" on its head and ennobled the low, humble style - the "serrno humilis." This rhetorical elevation of the low style was an important aspect of Christian writing and preaching throughout the Middle Ages, even during periods when the "genera dicendi" and systematic treatments of "elecutio" were not widely known. Cynewulfs poem constitutes a kind of vernacular continuation of the Christian evangelical mission which the attenuated Latin of the "Acta" began. In the Old English version, however, Juliana's struggle and martyrdom is clearly depicted in the epic, heroic terms more common to the Anglo-Saxon poetic idiom. This marriage of Christian subject matter with Anglo-Saxon poetic traditions produces a transformed idea of "decorum," and an elevation in the rhetorical style of Juliana's story. 1 conclude with a few examples of Cynewulfs departures from the Latin, demonstrating how the transformation from humble Latin to grand vernacular takes place. [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:
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2001.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973
  • Material/Technique :
  • Rights: