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Title:Narration and vision in the Old English "Genesis B"
Author(s):Ericksen, Janet A.S.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Wright, Charles D.
Department / Program:Literature, Classical
Literature, English
Discipline:Literature, Classical
Literature, English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Classical
Literature, English
Abstract:The Old English poem Genesis B is a complex narrative representation of the actions and motivations of Satan, Adam, and Eve, based on a theological understanding of these characters' modes of perception and capacity for spiritual vision. Its narrative concurrently is a description of the biblical events of Adam and Eve's fall, a dramatic development of that story, and a commentary on it. Identifying these pieces and their interaction reveals ways in which religious tradition and learning became part of narrative structure in Genesis B.
The series of references to likeness or unlikeness in the poem simultaneously invokes codified, orthodox discussions of the regio dissimilitudinis and reveals a theological dimension to the narrative focalization. The description of Adam's and Eve's interactions with the devil and their reactions to temptation also suggest that the poet had some knowledge of more speculative theological ideas concerning the holy gift of discretio spirituus. Chapters two and three, respectively, address the roles of the land of unlikeness and the discernment of spirits in Genesis B, both in terms of the relationship between the language of the poem and these theological ideas, and in the ways in which these ideas become part of the structure of this particular Genesis narrative. Unlikeness helps to delineate shifts in spiritual condition and the accompanying shift in actual vision; discernment of spirits reinforces the orthodox characterization of Eve.
The picture that emerges from this examination of how doctrinal and exegetical sources have been configured as narrative is one of a richly theological and yet character-oriented narrative. What prevents Genesis B from being character-centered, rather than simply having characters developed beyond the biblical text, is the extent and tenor of the narrator's comments on their actions. The interaction between the narrator's voice and the characters' speech, and the overlapping alternation between overt commentary on actions and simple narration of them, reveals an emphasis on Eve's actions and on the more general difficulty of interpretation. The fourth chapter delineates the interplay between these forms of narrative discourse, and suggests some of the implications this narrative structure might have on our perception of the poem's early medieval audience.
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Ericksen, Janet A. S.
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9416357
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9416357

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