Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 9954
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Lodge , Kristine Funch.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Holy Soul and Wholly Breast: The Implications of Objectification in AElfric's "Life of Agatha"
  • 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- Life of Agatha Body Hagiography Literature- Prose Martyrs in Literature Violence in Literature Women in Literature
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 10
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  • Abstract: Reading saints' lives in AElfric's Lives of Saints can be a task made difficult by ceaseless repetition. What becomes evident after the fifth - or tenth - saint is burned, beheaded, and racked, is a sort of saint's life "script" which serves to emphasize the saint's holiness, not the person. Clare A. Lees notes that "[s]aints are not the subjects of their stories; sanctity is, and sanc-tity is the product of the relationship between the saint and the perception of saintliness." However, I demon-strate in my paper that the vita of Agatha allows an "unscripted" view of a person, if only momentarily. and allows the possibility to consider her as something more than a faceless vessel of holiness. The moment in which this "script," breaks down occurs when Agatha's breast is severed. At first, Agatha willingly allows herself to be tortured and gives the "scripted" reply. emphasizing holiness and not herself. But when her torturer orders that Agatha's breast be cut off, she lashes out at him, calling him "Eala du arleasosta." This marks a brief moment in the text in which Agatha acts as an individual. However, as I slioW- in tracing this fracture throughout the rest of the vita, Agatha's defiance actually causes the objectifi-cation of herself to become problematic as a part of her body, her breast, becomes the focus of events for much of the vita rather than her body as a whole. Thus Aga-tha's severed breast becomes the focus of many issues in this text: objectification, subjectivity, ownership, authority. This moment comes at the expense of the fragmentation of her body as individual parts become more important than the entire body. This work is primarily influenced by the work of Gillian R. Ovenng and Clare A. Lees on Anglo-Saxon female bodies and by the theories of Judith Butler on the subjectivity and performativity of bodies. [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: Wake Forest University
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2001.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973
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