Session Title

Theological Aesthetics in Old English Religious Verse

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Ben Reinhard

Organizer Affiliation

Christendom College

Presider Name

Ben Reinhard

Paper Title 1

Is Old English Wisdom Poetry Beautiful? A Crisis of Aesthetics in the Historicist Canon

Presenter 1 Name

Karl Arthur Erik Persson

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Signum Univ.

Paper Title 2

Form's Freedom: Old English Liturgical Verse, Poetic Transformation, and the Kentish Hymn

Presenter 2 Name

Jacob Riyeff

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Marquette Univ.

Paper Title 3

Respondent

Presenter 3 Name

Daniel Anlezark

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Sydney Univ.

Start Date

12-5-2016 1:30 PM

Session Location

Valley III Stinson 303

Description

Two major problems face the study of Old English religious poetry. The first is simple, if puzzling, neglect. As Sarah Keefer notes, Anglo-Saxon aesthetics and thought were largely governed by "the language, rhythms, imagery, and culture of the church year." As such, it is not surprising that religious verse makes up by far the larger part of the Old English poetic corpus and a substantial part of the Old English corpus as a whole. Despite the primacy of religious thought and practice in Anglo-Saxon England, however, Old English religious verse receives (and always has received) comparatively little attention next to Beowulf and the other "heroic" works. This imbalance skews the conversation on Old English literature as a whole and gives an inaccurate picture of how the Anglo-Saxons knew themselves and the world around them.

The second problem, flowing from the first, is a failure in empathetic reading. Put simply, it is the refusal to understand, as closely as we can, how Anglo-Saxon poets would have understood their own verbal art. If Bede's account of the poet Cædmon tells us anything, it is that ideas of form and content were intimately linked in the Anglo-Saxon mind. It is nevertheless common to find studies that analyze Old English religious verse for its didactic content alone, as though the poetic form had no bearing on meaning; or, on the other hand, those that focus on linguistic or literary questions to the exclusion of the theological. While such studies are largely useful, both ignore the substantial unity of poetic form and religious content, and so fail to appreciate the poets' deliberate appropriation of and response to Christian liturgy, devotion, and doctrine.

This panel attempts to address both problems by exploring the nexus of religious belief and poetic art in Old English literature.

Ben Reinhard

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May 12th, 1:30 PM

Theological Aesthetics in Old English Religious Verse

Valley III Stinson 303

Two major problems face the study of Old English religious poetry. The first is simple, if puzzling, neglect. As Sarah Keefer notes, Anglo-Saxon aesthetics and thought were largely governed by "the language, rhythms, imagery, and culture of the church year." As such, it is not surprising that religious verse makes up by far the larger part of the Old English poetic corpus and a substantial part of the Old English corpus as a whole. Despite the primacy of religious thought and practice in Anglo-Saxon England, however, Old English religious verse receives (and always has received) comparatively little attention next to Beowulf and the other "heroic" works. This imbalance skews the conversation on Old English literature as a whole and gives an inaccurate picture of how the Anglo-Saxons knew themselves and the world around them.

The second problem, flowing from the first, is a failure in empathetic reading. Put simply, it is the refusal to understand, as closely as we can, how Anglo-Saxon poets would have understood their own verbal art. If Bede's account of the poet Cædmon tells us anything, it is that ideas of form and content were intimately linked in the Anglo-Saxon mind. It is nevertheless common to find studies that analyze Old English religious verse for its didactic content alone, as though the poetic form had no bearing on meaning; or, on the other hand, those that focus on linguistic or literary questions to the exclusion of the theological. While such studies are largely useful, both ignore the substantial unity of poetic form and religious content, and so fail to appreciate the poets' deliberate appropriation of and response to Christian liturgy, devotion, and doctrine.

This panel attempts to address both problems by exploring the nexus of religious belief and poetic art in Old English literature.

Ben Reinhard