The “Old English Elegy” in the context of early medieval Latin and vernacular traditions: A reappraisal of intertextuality, poetics, and literary genre, with a study of manuscript context
Rozano-García, Francisco Jesús
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The close association of traditional “Anglo-Saxon Studies” with nationalist agendas since its inception to the present day have evidenced the need for deep revision of the theoretical and methodological foundations of the discipline. In the last two decades, the urgency to engage in revisionist exercise has become apparent, as certain taxonomies impose ideological preconceptions onto early medieval history and culture. The term “Anglo-Saxon” itself, coined in the mid-nineteenth century, is loaded with British imperialist connotations and white supremacist overtones. On the other hand, some field-specific terminology, such as the use of “elegy” as a textual generic classification, perpetuate anachronistic projections of modern aesthetics retroactively applied to medieval cultural artefacts. Hence, our understanding of the past is hindered by the limitations of traditional methodological lens and conditioned by ideological inferences. This project provides an innovative approach to the re-evaluation of these taxonomies from a cross-disciplinary perspective. While primarily concerned with the consequences that the use of the term “elegy” has for the study of Old English poetry for both general and specialised audiences, the proposed project also engages in revision of the close relationship between the projection of modern literary sensibilities onto medieval texts, and post-Romantic nationalist discourse. Both aspects participate in a genetic understanding of history and literature based on a hypothesised continuity of recognisable racial traits across time. As opposed to traditional anachronistic and ethnocentric methodologies, I propose that Old English language and poetics create a cohesive system transcending generic taxonomies, ultimately based on an assimilative principle. I produce the idea of the “familiarising principle,” which consists in the recontextualisation of received learning into familiar cultural parameters. This approach moves away from modern ideas of literary genres and proves that the largely established isolationist reading of a culturally and ethnically uniform “Anglo-Saxon England” is no longer tenable.
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