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Materializing Englishness in Early Medieval Texts

Jacqueline Fay

Publication Date - October 2022

ISBN: 9780198757566

224 pages
8.0 x 5.3 inches

In Stock


The aim of this book is to restore to the story of Englishness the lively material interactions between words, bodies, plants, stones, metals, and soil, among other things, that would have characterized it for the early medieval English themselves. In particular, each chapter demonstrates how a productive collapse, or fusion, between place and history happens not only in the intellectual realm, in ideas, but is also a material concern, becoming enfleshed in encounters between early medieval bodies and a host of material entities. Through readings of texts in a wide variety of genres including hagiography, heroic poetry, and medical and historical works, the book argues that Englishness during this period is an embodied identity emergent at the frontier of material and textual interactions that serve productively to occlude history, religion, and geography. The early medieval English body thus results from the rich encounter between the lived environment--climate, soil, landscape features, plants--and the textual-discursive realm that both determines what that environment means and is also itself determined by the material constraints of everyday life.


  • Traces the links between Englishness and the body in medieval texts and culture
  • Covers a wide range of genres and types of works including hagiography, heroic poetry, and medical and historical works
  • Employs cutting edge use of theory
  • Features new readings of primary texts

About the Author(s)

Jacqueline Fay, Associate Professor of English, University of Texas at Arlington

Jacqueline Fay is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at Arlington. She is the author of articles on early medieval medical texts, historical works, and saints' lives, among other topics, and also associate editor for Old English and Old Norse of the five-volume Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Medieval British Literature (2017) and co-editor of A Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Studies (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). Her recent work concentrates on the relationship of the human and non-human in early medieval England, in particular re-reading the interactions between texts and plants, animals, and objects.

Table of Contents

    Introduction: Materializing Englishness
    1. The Workings of Soil in Early English Hagiography
    2. Stones, Books, and the Place of History around A.D. 900
    3. The Trans-Planted Politics of Eleventh-Century England
    4. Beowulf and Ethnic Matters
    Works Cited