Fee, Christopher Richard
Torture, text and the reformulation of spiritual identity in old English religious verse.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The Introduction to this thesis includes a brief discussion of various understandings of what torture is, and a statement of the definition of torture adopted for the purposes of this study. Torture, as it is examined in this study, is not so much an act of violence as it is a violent process; that is, torture is a means, not an end in itself, and torture always presupposes intent and causality. Chapter One provides the historical and legal contexts for later literary and theoretical discussions of torture. This chapter is divided into two parts, the first dealing with instances of torture which appear in Anglo-Saxon historical records, and the second dealing with legal codes which are concerned with torture. In the course of this chapter it becomes apparent that torture as a public act serves as a document of sorts, sometimes recording and sometimes interpreting political realities. Any study of torture must be grounded in an understanding of pain, and Chapter Two is concerned with the nature of pain, and with its relationship to torture. The paradox of pain is that it is universal and at the same time isolating and inexpressible. In Chapter Two, a close examination of the language and structure of The Dream of the Rood serves to illustrate that the Anglo-Saxons understood this paradox. The graphic and sometimes almost loving detail with which the poet describes the passion of Christ functions as a language "of weapons and wounds", and helps to convey, in some measure, the almost incommunicable nature of intense physical pain. Chapter Three explores the way in which torture acts may function as language acts, and the necessarily public nature of such performative language. This chapter begins with a discussion of linguistic theories concerning pragmatics and performative language acts. Then, drawing upon textual examples from such Old English sources as Elene, Juliana and Daniel, this chapter examines how torture may be construed as a form of language, and how the performative nature of an act of torture articulates that act's context of power and politics in the culture at large.
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