Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity

Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity

Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity

Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity

Synopsis

"Teaches us the extent to which the discipline of Anglo-Saxon studies is a construct motivated variously by political, economic, cultural, gender-based, and racialist impulses. Thus it also teaches us both humility before the limits upon our supposed 'disinterestedness' and optimism, if chastened, in our collegial ability to reform and improve our disciplinary investments". -- R. Allen Shoaf, University of Florida

Contributors to this volume explore Anglo-Saxonism as a set of beliefs and cultural practices that posits a unity among English-speakers based on their common racial, linguistic, and institutional descent from the people of Anglo-Saxon England. Value has often been set on such heritage, for Anglo-Saxonism asserts the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon people and sees their institutions as models of good government, commercial prosperity, and piety.

In an examination of Anglo-Saxonism in a variety of forms and in several different periods of English and American literary history, the authors investigate how the Anglo-Saxons themselves thought about the origins of national and racial identity By linking current theoretical studies to the early manifestations of Anglo-Saxonism, they seek to contribute to the "new medievalisms" -- theoretically aware, institutionally focused, and interdisciplinary medieval studies -- that are transforming the academy.

Excerpt

Allen J. Frantzen and John D. Niles

IN THIS BOOK we bring together a series of essays that explore Anglo- Saxonism in a variety of forms and in a number of periods of history.

The term Anglo-Saxonism is used here to denote the process through which a self-conscious national and racial identity first came into being among the early peoples of the region that we now call England and how, over time, through both scholarly and popular promptings, that identity was transformed into an originary myth available to a wide variety of political and social interests.

The nine contributors examine how constructions of Anglo-Saxon history, language, and literature have evolved over time in response to a variety of political, religious, and social concerns, finding expression in texts that range from law codes and chronicles to scholarly books and children's literature. Authors in Part One address the origins of Anglo- Saxonism among the Anglo-Saxons themselves and analyze multiple political affiliations of early Anglo-Saxon texts, including Bede Ecclesiastical History of the English People (finished in731), the poetic entries that were incorporated into the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the years 942-75, law codes that were recorded in English before the Norman Conquest, and the Old English translation of St. Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care. The political dimension of several of these works extends to the period of the Renaissance, when manuscript texts written in Old English were published for the first time and drawn into service in . . .

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