The Anglo-Saxon Seminar: Sin and Forgiveness in Anglo-Saxon England
The focus of the seminar was sin and forgiveness in the Old English period. These concepts are manifest in a broad range of Anglo-Saxon poetic and prose texts central to the culture’s social and religious life. After the Irish, the Anglo-Saxons assembled the earliest and most comprehensive system of vernacular sources for teaching and administering confession and penance: poems, homilies, handbooks for teaching priests, private prayers, public liturgies, and others. Among the poems we will read are several from The Vercelli Book, including AThe Dream of the Rood,@ ASoul and Body,@ and AElene.@ We will read two Vercelli homilies about sin and forgiveness. Penance intersected with public law, so we will examine the interaction of secular and ecclesiastical ideas of forgiveness in some legal codes. Other sources will include handbooks of penance, which will be made available to members of the seminar as electronic texts. Some time will be spent transcribing parts of handbooks from manuscript facsimiles. For purposes of comparison, we will ask to view a twelfth-century Newberry manuscript containing a Latin penitential. To help us focus on the wider cultural meanings of sin and forgiveness, students will read parts of various works, including Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish; Allen J. Frantzen, The Literature of Penance in Anglo-Saxon England; and some well-known essays on penitential poetry in the period, including work by E. G. Stanley, Stanley Greenfield, and others.
Participants: Courtney Craig, Loyola University Chicago; Carl Larrivee, Wayne State University; Ryan Morrison, Loyola University Chicago; Andrew Rabin, University of Chicago; Larry Swain, University of Illinois at Chicago; Erik Vorhes, Loyola University Chicago; S. Michelle Yacht, University of Chicago.
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