The Old English "Judith": Sources, Analysis and Context

Brigatti, Federico (2001) The Old English "Judith": Sources, Analysis and Context. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The Old English poem Judith has received scant critical attention compared to other poems in the corpus of Old English poetry. This dissertation aims at providing a thorough analysis of the poem by an examination of its sources and analogues, its stylistic qualities and its cultural and historical context. A comparison with other Old English poems will help highlight its unique features and its highly stylized narrative form that centers on the opposition between the good and the evil leader. The Introduction examines the most influential criticism of Judith in an attempt to elicit the major critical issues surrounding the poem. This is followed by an analysis of the physical features of London, British Library, Cotton Vitellius A. xv; such a codicological investigation is necessary in a discussion of the original length of this incomplete poem and its relationship with other works in the manuscript. The second chapter deals with the complexities of the source material, in particular the Judeo-Christian sources and patristic exegesis on the Book of Judith that evolved in the course of the Middle Ages. The ways in which the Old English poet departed from the apocryphal book and its accepted patristic interpretations are particularly important as a guide to the poet's didactic aims. In chapter three comparisons are made with other Old English works both in prose and in poetry in order to illustrate the unique features of Judith both in the conception of its hero and in its style and structure. A detailed analysis of the style of the poem is undertaken in the fourth and central chapter of this thesis. Information gleaned in the previous chapters is now applied to a close reading of the poem in which the concept of leadership is seen to play a major role. This leads to a discussion of significant historical, social and cultural events in England at the time when Judith was written. The work concludes with a summary of the discussions and of reasons why such a poem would have appealed to a tenth-century audience, and indeed continues to fascinate modem readers. The first appendix provides a detailed synoptic view of the Old English text and its major biblical sources, while the second continues the story of the appeal of Judith into the literature and art of the later Middle Ages and early Renaissance.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Graham D Caie
Keywords: Medieval literature
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-76133
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 16:36
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 16:36

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