The gifstol : almsgiving and Christian lordship in the Exeter book /

No Thumbnail Available
Hamby, Holly
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
The poems in the Old English Exeter Book (Exeter, Cathedral Library, MS 3501) are purposely didactic tools, particularly of a catechetical nature, used to promote and reinforce ideal Christian Anglo-Saxon lordship. The primary mode by which these ideals are transmitted is through the poems' depiction of the giving, or lack of giving, of gifts and alms by lords to the less fortunate. The Exeter Book was intended to be read along a central theme uniting the poems in the manuscript: the importance of Christian lords to imitate Christ, the ultimate King and greatest Almsgiver, by giving alms to their people. The Germanic focus on gift-giving, continuously present in Anglo-Saxon culture, would have syncretized easily with Christian almsgiving, united along the central purpose of both giving systems: care of the people by those with more resources, whether God-given or otherwise. The scribe(s) who compiled the Exeter Book did not merely anthologize these Old English poems haphazardly, or for purposes of preservation alone. Analysis of several exemplar poems within the manuscript (Almsgiving, Widsith, The Wanderer , The Seafarer, Guthlac A, The Phoenix, The Advent Lyrics, The Ascension , and Christ in Judgment) demonstrates the central motif of almsgiving as necessary for ideal Christian lordship, and that this collection of poems was deliberately constructed to transmit appropriate modes of lordship for Christian Anglo-Saxon lords to follow.
Adviser: Rhonda McDaniel.