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In Cynewulf’s Old English poem Juliana, the saint frames her encounters with her adversaries as pedagogical confrontations, refusing the lessons they attempt to “teach” her and ultimately adopting the identity of a teacher herself. These confrontations depend on three key tropes in the poem: Juliana’s voice, as a material manifestation of language deployed by the saint; her body, both as living body and as relic; and place, especially the place of the saint’s martyrdom and/or burial. Viewed through theories of material feminism, these tropes reveal diverse forms of agency in the poem, as both human and non-human agents make bodies and places newly intelligible as dynamic and interlinking phenomena.


Portions of this essay were presented at the Semi-Annual Meeting of the Georgia Medievalists’ Group in Albany, Georgia in 2010; at the 125th Meeting of the American Historical Association in Boston in 2011; and at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo in 2017. I am grateful to Mary Dockray-Miller for her encouragement and to Allen J. Frantzen for sharing his unpublished research on Cynewulf’s Juliana. My chair, Rhonda Armstrong, and the Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Augusta University also provided valuable funding support.


Juliana, Cynewulf, Old English, Anglo-Saxon, hagiography, saints, materiality, material feminism, matter, phenomena

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Copyright © 2019 Christina M. Heckman