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Title:Deixis, movement, and power in Old English literature: Perceptions of space in early medieval England
Author(s):Williams, Kelly
Director of Research:Trilling, Renée R.; Wright, Charles D.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Trilling, Renée R.; Wright, Charles D.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Barrett, Jr., Robert W.; Camargo, Martin
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Old English
Christ I
Abstract:This dissertation argues that space deixis reveals how language is involved in the construction of power in the literature of early medieval England, generating as well as problematizing political, religious, gendered, and racial hierarchies. Deixis refers to words and phrases which cannot be fully understood without contextual information, such as the identity and location of the speaker, as well as the time the utterance occurs. Examples of such words include demonstratives (“this,” “that”), pronouns (“I,” “you,” “he,” “she”), verb tenses, time and place adverbs (“here,” “now”), and other grammatical features that are linked to the circumstances of utterance. Focusing primarily on deixis with a spatial dimension, such as “this,” “that,” “here,” “there,” and “come,” this dissertation shows how deixis defines power by defining sovereign spaces and relationships to an authority figure such as a king or Christ. Chapter One argues that the post-Alfredian annals in the historiographic "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" establish the king as a central figure around which subjects literally orient themselves. As King Edward expands his kingdom, subjects swear their allegiance in a ritual which involves physically turning their bodies to face him. Bodily orientation in space, specifically orientation around a common figure, thus enables a political community to emerge. In beginning each entry with the word “here,” the Chronicle orients readers around the shared space of the manuscript page and around a shared proto-national history. Chapter Two examines "Christ I," or the "Advent Lyrics," arguing that Christ’s power is constructed by his ability to transcend space and time during Advent, which is called a “hidercyme” (“here-coming”) in Old English. Positioning Christ as a king who unites the proximate “this world” of earth with the distal “that world” of heaven, "Christ I" uses space deixis to evoke a relationship between the speaker, the Christian community more broadly, and Christ. Chapter Three applies feminist criticism to Cynewulf’s hagiographic poem "Juliana" to argue that St. Juliana disrupts gender hierarchies to claim her body as a sovereign space which cannot be violated by male pagan authorities. "Juliana" positions the titular saint in the middle of a concentric series of ever-narrowing spaces, and uses the deictic “here” to designate the female body as a space over which male, imperial, pagan authorities have no jurisdiction. I conclude in Chapter Four by showing how deixis figures religion as an imperial force in the long narrative poem, "Andreas." "Andreas" uses the material underpinnings of deictic language and space in order to enhance the separation of the Christian “Us” and heathen “Them,” while also using space deixis to associate salvation with imperialism. Imperialism is likened to salvation using the same language as "Christ I"; St. Andrew’s arrival in a foreign “that world” is called a “hither-coming,” justifying forceful conversion by imbuing humans with divine authority.
Issue Date:2020-06-29
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Kelly Williams
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-10-07
Date Deposited:2020-08

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