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Title:The Voice of Evil: A Narratological Study of Demonic Characters in Old English Literature
Author(s):Breen, Nathan Alan
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Wright, Charles D.
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Medieval
Abstract:Why are demonic characters so common in Old English poetry? Perhaps evil characters were, as they are today, a source of interest and intrigue; maybe they represented the fears of the Anglo-Saxons; or, it could be that these characters allowed the poets to express what would otherwise be inexpressable, unfathomable, or unpopular. In any case, it is clear that the Devil and demons reflect the religious concerns of the Anglo-Saxon poets. The issue at hand, then, is not so much what demonic characters do in the text, but how the poet constructs his or her work to represent these characters and their speech. This study is a narratological analysis of seven Old English poems (Genesis A, Genesis B, Elene, Juliana, Christ and Satan, Guthlac A, and Andreas) that contain the Devil or demons as speaking characters. The primary focus is on how the author uses the narrator and other narrative elements such as time and character speech to deal with issues of power, hierarchy, and knowledge as they are discussed and debated in Classical and Anglo-Saxon Christian theology. In each poem, the poet develops an intricate structure within which the demonic character operates. The essential problem for the poet is to control and contain the actions, speech, and power of the Devil and demons, and this is achieved differently in each poem. For example, the poet of Genesis A develops a highly intrusive narrator who shapes and contextualizes both the story and the speech of the characters by using indirect speech; in contrast, Cynewulf, in Juliana, presents a less intrusive narrator who allows the direct speech of the demon to dominate nearly half of the poem, but controls him by limiting his agency (his ability to act directly within the human realm). In every case, the Anglo-Saxon poets utilize the narrator and the structure of the poem to exploit the narrative possibilities afforded by demonic characters while simultaneously highlighting their weaknesses.
Issue Date:2003
Description:215 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2003.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3101803
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2003

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