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Naked Before God

Uncovering the Body in Anglo-Saxon England

Bejamin C. Withers, Jonathan Wilcox

Publication Year: 2003

At different times and in different places, the human form has been regarded in different ways. The Ancient Greeks thought it was the most admirable subject for art, whereas early Christians often viewed it as lascivious in our post-lapsarian state. With illustrations taken from manuscripts, statuary and literary, this is a fascinating collection of essays with much that will be new to scholars and general readers alike.

Published by: West Virginia University Press

Series: Medieval European Studies


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pp. vii-x


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p. xi-xi

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p. xii-xii

We wish to thank the libraries and individuals who hold the copyrights for allowing us to publish the illustrations that uncover the body within this book. Three institutions helped defray the costs of purchasing images and permissions: Mary Dockray-Miller thanks Janet Schulte, Dean of the School of ...

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FORWARD. Uncovering the Body in Anglo-Saxon England

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pp. 1-14

THOUGH ANGLO-SAXON ENGLAND is better known for its penitents than peep-shows, glimpses of unclothed bodies peek through in surprising places in the surviving sources. As the essays that follow demonstrate, the spectacle of the unclothed body, at once scandalous and seductive, exposes more ...

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INTRODUCTION. Medieval Bodies Then and Now: Negotiating Problems of Ambivalence and Paradox

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pp. 15-28

SITUATED at the intersection of contemporary discourses about identity, sexuality, gender, and subjectivity, the body(or embodiment) dominates the center of many conversations we are now having about the Middle Ages. We never encounter the body unmediated by the meanings that cultures, including ...

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The Wanton Hand: Reading and Reaching into Grammars and Bodies in Old English Riddle 12

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pp. 29-59

THIS ESSAY is a study of the Old English word swife∂ as it is used in the much talked of Riddle 12.1 Although it is not a hapax legomenon, as it occurs five other times in the entireAnglo-Saxon corpus, its use here is a curious one, made all the more so by its rarity. In place of the ordinary usage of swife∂ ...

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The Key to the Body: Unlocking Riddles 42-46

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pp. 60-96

Riddle 44 (key) in the Exeter Book, with its blunt description of the male genitalia plus the reference to the “familiar hole,” possibly stands out as the most explicit allusion to sex and sexual body parts in the extant corpus of Old English literature.1 It is one of several riddles in the Exeter ...

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The Body as Text in Early Anglo-Saxon Law

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pp. 97-115

In her recent article “Body and Law in Late Anglo-Saxon England,” Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe explores new ground about the meaning of mutilation during the late tenth and early eleventh centuries in England.1 Using evidence drawn from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Translatio et miracula S. ...

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The Sacrificial Synecdoche of Hands, Heads, and Arms in Anglo-Saxon Heroic Story

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pp. 116-137

Because I do not analyze an Anglo-Saxon approach to the naked body, my essay differs somewhat from the rest of this collection. Indeed, “nacod” does not occur often in heroic story, not at all in The Battle of Maldon and only three times in Beowulf (twice describing unsheathed swords, once the dragon, ...

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Nudity on the Margins: The Bayeux Tapestry and its Relationship to Marginal Architectural Sculpture

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pp. 138-161

In the ancient world, representations of the nude body possessed overwhelmingly positive associations.1 The display of the male nude form in ancient Greece conveyed notions of freedom and power, qualities that differentiated the Greeks from their political rivals.2 In the transition from the ancient to ...

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The Donestre and the Person of Both Sexes

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pp. 162-180

The “Wonders of the East” survives in two illustrated manuscripts with texts in Old English: BL, Cotton Tiberius B. v, and BL, Cotton Vitellius A. xv.2 Not only these two versions of the “Wonders of the East” but also the related texts of the Liber Monstrorum contain descriptions of hybrid monsters called ...

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Exiles from the Kingdom: The Naked and the Damned in Anglo-Saxon Art

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pp. 181-220

The unclothed body is rare in Anglo-Saxon art in any medium, and the naked and sexed body rarer still. Even in the illustration of episodes that we know center on disruptive bodies or sexual encounters — such as the story of Lot and his daughters, or the conception of Ishmael — the body remains ...

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Breasts and Babies: The Maternal Body of Eve in the Junius 11 Genesis

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pp. 221-256

It is hard to escape the body in the Genesis poem of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Junius 11.1 Line drawings of Adam and Eve illustrate many of the first 54 pages of the manuscript, and they are “naked before God” in many of them. Close examination of the interactions between what I will call the “poetic text” ...

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Penitential Nakedness and the Junius 11 Genesis

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pp. 257-274

An injunction in an Old English guide for assigning penances, the “Scrift boc” usually tagged as of “Pseudo-Egbert," asserts that “Ceorle ne gedafena∂ †æt he his wif æfre nacod egeseo” (“it is not right for a man that he ever see his wife naked”).1 Despite its potential impracticality and peripheral-...

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Naked in Old English: The Embarrassed and the Shamed

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pp. 275-309

In the famous legend, Lady Godiva agrees to ride naked through the marketplace of Coventry — an impossibilia posed by her husband — in order to free the citizens of Coventry from oppressive taxation. This she does, . . . nuda equum ascendens, crines capitis et tricas dissolvens, corpus suum totum præter crura ...


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pp. 310-315

E-ISBN-13: 9781935978374
E-ISBN-10: 1935978373
Print-ISBN-13: 9780937058688
Print-ISBN-10: 0937058688

Page Count: 315
Illustrations: 46 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Medieval European Studies