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Anglo-Saxon Literary Theory Exemplified in Old English Poems: Interpreting the Cross in "The Dream of the Rood" and "Elene"

Martin Irvine
Style
Vol. 20, No. 2, Medieval Semiotics (Summer 1986), pp. 157-181
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42945598
Page Count: 25
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Anglo-Saxon Literary Theory Exemplified in Old English Poems: Interpreting the Cross in "The Dream of the Rood" and "Elene"
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Abstract

The question of literary theory in the Anglo-Saxon period and the problem of Old English textuality have not yet been seriously discussed. Most Old English poems presuppose a Latin, literate textual community and a system of discursive practices from Latin literary tradition imposed upon, or mediating, an earlier oral and Germanic textuality. For the literate Anglo-Saxon community, the main cultural conditions for writing and interpretation were supplied by grammatica, the discipline concerned with the literary text in all of its aspects. The orientation of grammatica was essentially semiotic, and the Old English poems on the Cross are best understood as interpretations of, or commentaries on, the Latin sources, and, therefore, as products of the grammatical culture of Anglo-Saxon England. The larger literary assumptions revealed by The Dream of the Rood and Elenehave wide implications for an extensive range of texts, both Latin and Old English, composed in the Anglo-Saxon period.

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