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Dr. Damian Fleming

Abstract

My research focuses on the Waldere fragments, and their place within the broader scope of Old English literature. The Waldere fragments are an under-studied and under-represented piece of literature within the corpus of medieval English texts, despite their significance as one of the only pieces of secular poetry alongside the more well-known Beowulf. My research project analyzes and contextualizes the content of the fragments within the corpus of Old English secular poetry, and Old English literature as a whole. Through careful examination of digital facsimiles of the fragments provided on the website of the National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library, I examined the content of the piece and analyzed its position within the larger body of work outside of Old English concerned with the legend of Walter of Aquitaine, the central figure of the fragments. These fragments, which were incorporated into the binding of an Elizabethan prayer book sometime in the 16th century, are further indication of the warrior culture of the Anglo-Saxons, as well as proof of the popularity of legends like that of Walter. I also argue that the fragments’ fate, that of being used as binding for a religious tome, also displays the shift that occurred within the culture of the British Isles between the creation of the manuscript sometime around the year 1000 C.E. and its destruction for alternate use sometime in the 16th century. The shift from a culture connected deeply to its roots in warrior culture, while simultaneously devoutly Christian, to one of less violent piety, is apparent through the fate of such artifacts like Waldere. The study of manuscripts such as this is one of the few ways in which we can learn more about the multi-faceted culture of the earliest speakers of English.

Disciplines

Linguistics

Waldere: Fragments of a Lost and Forgotten Epic

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