Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 7939
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Bankert , Dabney A.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: The Conversion Stories of Aelfric's "Lives of Saints" [analyzes the "Lives" of St. Agnes and St. Gallicanus; in the latter the conversion is in fact that of Constantia, daughter of the emperor Constantine].
  • Source: Old English Newsletter 29, 3 (Spring 1996):
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Ælfric, Abbot of Eynsham- Lives of the Saints Conversion, Religious in Literature Hagiography Literature- Prose Women in Literature Women in Religion
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 10-11
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  • Abstract: In this paper I examine two of the narratives in Œ1fric's "Lives of Saints," those of St. Agnes and St. Gallicanus, though the latter is largely the story of Constantia, daughter of the emperor Constantine. Because they are deliberately combined, these two lives offer apparently opposing models of behavior and opposing lessons on Christian conversion. The virgin Constantia, with her father's approval, orchestrates the conversion of her pagan suitor, who subsequently embraces celibacy and the eremitical life, in order that she may remain a virgin in Christ's service. Her creative solution to her predicament contrasts with the more typical virgin-martyr paradigm elaborated in the story of St. Agnes (who is tortured and killed for refusing her suitor), and to which this story is appended. It is through Œlfric's combined Latin and Old English prefaces and the conception of audience they express that we can best understand the interpretive problem the combined stories pose. Together they specify his overt educational mission and display his anxiety about the difficulty of controlling the lessons readers take from the texts. The combined stories of Agnes and Constantia, and the progressive historical way of reading that the combination encourages, can be understood as a specific response to that anxiety. The story of Agnes serves as impetus for a progressive chain of conversions - Constantia, her father, her suitor, and the Scythians he conquers - and leads to a more productive and less austere model of virginity [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: University of Illinois
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1996.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973
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