Degree Year

1995

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

Advisor(s)

Robert Longsworth

Keywords

Anglo-Saxon, Rood, Christ, Crucifixion, Dream of the Rood

Abstract

This essay will explore the how the poem, through the Rood, might have affirmed and challenged an Anglo-Saxon auditor's religious and cultural assumptions. Both aspects of the auditor's experience could have been inspired by the Rood's dual function within the poem: as a character, the Rood responds to the Crucifixion according to Anglo-Saxon norms; as a narrator, however, the Rood recounts and refigures Christ, who challenges the same norms it is trying to uphold. This paradox and its resolution can be explained by reconstructing the ideological "space" in which the Rood's voice would have resonated. It was a space profoundly shaped by the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity and subsequent cultural and doctrinal influences upon Anglo-Saxon religiosity, as will be discussed below. Many scholars have traced Anglo-Saxon beliefs along the dichotomized, Christian-pagan lines discussed above. However, consideration of the development of Anglo-Saxon Christianity suggests that such approaches fail to recognize that the original audience of the Dream of the Rood possessed a more complex sensibility, formed by a conversion process of ethical accommodation and cultural syncretism.

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