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Thought and Action in Old English Poetry and Prose

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In the burgeoning field of cognitive studies in Anglo-Saxon literature, criticism has tended to focus on the mind in isolation. This book offers a new look at the way authors of Old English poetry and prose explore an intimate relationship between mental and physical acts. In these texts, right or wrong action is not linked to nature, but is the fruit of right or wrong thinking, reflecting an emerging democratization of heroism that crosses societal and gender boundaries and in the case of The Battle of Maldon becomes intertwined with socio-political and cultural meaning. Movement, both physical and mental, is opposed to stasis and can be influenced by external – human and diabolical – forces. Through close reading and cross-genre comparisons, Ponirakis demonstrates how Anglo-Saxon poets manipulate this interaction to provide a key to interpretation. Comparison across the most influential prose texts reveals a startling similarity of approach which takes the discussion of the Anglo-Saxon conception of the mind and soul, not to mention conventional generic divisions, onto new ground.

Author Information

Eleni Ponirakis, University of Nottingham, UK.
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Audience: Medievalists, scholars of English Language and Literature Studies

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