Crowd Control? Depictions of the Many in Anglo-Saxon Literature, with Particular Reference to the Old English Legend of the Seven Sleepers

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    This article argues for the distinctiveness of the presentation of crowds in the Old English version of the Legend of the Seven Sleepers . In traditional Old English poetry, crowds are mostly conspicuous by their absence, since the social groupings portrayed are typically those ofthe lord's retinue and the fellowship of the hall. In writings deriving from Latin traditions (in Anglo-Latin, Old English prose and strands of Old English poetry) such as historiography andhagiography, crowds are presented in highly conventional terms based on literary models. The crowd scenes in the Legend of the Seven Sleepers , on the other hand, have an immediacy and urgency that seem based on real-life experience of Anglo-Saxon England rather than simply imitative of the work's Latin (ultimately Greek) source or of other literary models. Drawing upon crowd theory and historical studies, the article demonstrates that the crowds in this text are presented in “domesticated” Anglo-Saxon terms and may be seen as reflective of growing urbanization in late Anglo-Saxon England. “Real” crowds are glimpsed elsewhere in Anglo-Saxon literature but in the Legend of the Seven Sleepers they are particularly foregrounded; this text also presents the literature's liveliest picture of town life more generally.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)119-137
    Number of pages19
    JournalEnglish Studies
    Volume93
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Linguistics and Language
    • Literature and Literary Theory

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