Title of Oral/Poster Presentation

Saints and Demons: Female Archetypes in Anglo-Saxon Literature

Class

Article

College

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Faculty Mentor

Christine Cooper-Rompato

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract

Research into how women are portrayed in Old English poetry is essential to gain more insight into the place women held in early-medieval Anglo-Saxon England. This paper showcases how portrayals of women from two prominent Old English poems, “Beowulf” and Cynewulf’s “Elene,” show that Anglo-Saxon culture privileged obedience and submission in women while seeing independent, strong-willed women as a threat to society. These opposing views of women are shown in two figures from the poems: Helena from “Elene” and Grendel’s Mother from “Beowulf.” Helena’s portrayal as a saint and holy woman identifies her as an archetype of the ideal Anglo-Saxon woman, and since she is primarily defined in the poem by her total obedience and submission to male authority figures, these traits can be seen to be considered ideal characteristics of woman in that culture. In contrast to Helena, Grendel’s Mother can be viewed as an independent female authority figure not connected to the male hierarchy, and can therefore be seen to independent, unconnected women as a whole. The fact that she is portrayed as an inhuman monster that is a direct threat to the patriarchal hierarchy represented by Hrothgar and Beowulf shows the threat that independent women were also seen to represent to masculine societal structure of Anglo-Saxon England. Dr. Cooper-Rompato (English Department) would like to recommend this paper as part of a panel on medieval literature.

Location

Room 101

Start Date

4-12-2018 1:30 PM

End Date

4-12-2018 2:45 PM

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Apr 12th, 1:30 PM Apr 12th, 2:45 PM

Saints and Demons: Female Archetypes in Anglo-Saxon Literature

Room 101

Research into how women are portrayed in Old English poetry is essential to gain more insight into the place women held in early-medieval Anglo-Saxon England. This paper showcases how portrayals of women from two prominent Old English poems, “Beowulf” and Cynewulf’s “Elene,” show that Anglo-Saxon culture privileged obedience and submission in women while seeing independent, strong-willed women as a threat to society. These opposing views of women are shown in two figures from the poems: Helena from “Elene” and Grendel’s Mother from “Beowulf.” Helena’s portrayal as a saint and holy woman identifies her as an archetype of the ideal Anglo-Saxon woman, and since she is primarily defined in the poem by her total obedience and submission to male authority figures, these traits can be seen to be considered ideal characteristics of woman in that culture. In contrast to Helena, Grendel’s Mother can be viewed as an independent female authority figure not connected to the male hierarchy, and can therefore be seen to independent, unconnected women as a whole. The fact that she is portrayed as an inhuman monster that is a direct threat to the patriarchal hierarchy represented by Hrothgar and Beowulf shows the threat that independent women were also seen to represent to masculine societal structure of Anglo-Saxon England. Dr. Cooper-Rompato (English Department) would like to recommend this paper as part of a panel on medieval literature.