Towards a Monastic Poetics: Poetic Art and Social Function in the Exeter Book Maxims


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


English Literature


This project analyzes the rhetoric of spirituality and its role in the formation of political communities during the earliest recorded period of English history and literature, the Anglo-Saxon period. Specifically, it examines the rhetoric of wisdom poetry preserved in a manuscript known as the Exeter Book that was written out at a critical stage in the formation of England’s national identity, known as the Benedictine Reform (which began ca. AD 940). It argues that the rhetoric of the Reform, which sought to regularize England’s monastic communities and to strengthen knowledge of Latin learning, is essential to understanding this gnomic poetry, which was produced and preserved during a period soon after terrifying Viking raids had decimated England’s spiritual and educational infrastructures.