Sarah Jaran

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Medieval Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Jana K. Schulman

Second Advisor

Dr. Robert Berkhofer III

Third Advisor

Dr. Kevin J. Wanner


Medieval, Old English, poetry, soul, body

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Soul and Body II has been considered for many years by scholars to be a less doctrinally complex poem compared to later versions of the topos. Superficially, the poem seems to blame the body fully for the shared doomed fate of the body and soul because the majority of the poem is a speech by the soul claiming that much. I propose in this study, however, that the poet created a dual message for the audience of Soul and Body II. While the easy and more superficial message is that the body is at fault for the damnation of both entities, I argue that the poet crafted the poem with a deeper message that places the blame on the soul as much as the body. Through rhetorical devices involving repetition, both within the poem and across multiple poems, and by repeatedly blurring the distinctions between traditional dichotomies, the poet created an underlying message that blames both soul and body equally. Furthermore, the poet used the poem to serve as a dire warning to his audience so that each audience member may learn from the mistakes of the “bad” body and soul. If the listeners were wise, they would pay attention to the cautioning of the poem and they would live with both intent and actions expected of a proper Christian.