Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 3542
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Anderson , Rachel.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: The Power of Speech: Gender and Direct Discourse in AElfric's "Lives of Saints"
  • 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): Ælfric, Abbot of Eynsham- Lives of the Saints Gender in Literature Hagiography Literature- Prose Martyrs in Literature Speech in Literature Women in Literature
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 10
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  • Abstract: What power does direct discourse have in Hagiogra-phy? This study discusses this question in terms of fElfric's lives of martyrs compiled in his Lives of Saints. I build on the work done is this area by Robert Bjork, who examined the verse saints' lives in the Old English canon, and Ruth Waterhouse, who examined .,Elfric's hagiography. Both come to similar conclusions; name-ly, that direct discourse is employed by the authors to highlight the power of the saint, and downplay the power of the accusing/adversarial character. Simply put. the good get quoted, the evil get reported. What Waterhouse does not take into consideration in her examination of./Elfrie, however, is the factor of gender. In a brief article, Alexandra Hennessy Olsen analyzes the speech of Juliana in Cynewulfs poem of the same name. She concludes that the vocal actions of the saint are her locus of power, and in fact contribute to her "accomplishment" of martyrdom. This study seeks to build on Waterhouse and expand Hennessy Olsen's analysis to fElfric, and conduct an analysis of his hagiography that asks whether gender plays a signifi-cant role in his saints' represented direct discourse, and if so, what relevance this might have to our understand-ing of gender and sanctity in late Anglo-Saxon Eng-land.~~Preliminary analysis suggests that there is a statisti-cal correlation between gender and direct discourse in /Elfric's work. On the whole, female martyrs have twice the percentage of directly quoted speech as their male counterparts. When the female saint is not paired with a man, that percentage goes up to 2.8. Furthermore, A,lfric's female martyrs have a marked tendency to make long speeches (the longest being Agatha's 38-line lecture), while the male martyrs, like George, engage in more balanced discussions with their persecutors. The exceptions to this pattern fall into two categories. The female saint becomes silent when she is paired with a male martyr - for example, Chrysanthus and Daria. Eugenia is also a rather silent saint; 1 would suggest that she not only took on the habit of a male monk, but the speech-patterns of an ,Elfrician male martyr. By examining these data in conjunction with the analyses of Waterhouse, Bjork, and Hennessy Olsen, this study seeks to explicate the connection between gender and direct discourse, and specifically relate this connection to the power of speech for female - and male - virgin martyrs. [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: Indiana University
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2001.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973
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