'Enta geweorc’: Locating Memory in Landscape in Anglo-Saxon Poetry.

Margaret Tedford

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Images of landscape in Old English poetry include not only natural topographical features but man-made structures. From Roman ruins to burial mounds and the great hall of Germanic heroic society, these features are images of human engagement with their physical environment. In Old English poetry these features are often linked to acts of remembrance. This article will examine certain Old English poems such as The Ruin and Beowulf to explore the relationship between physical space and memory. It will stem from the view of memory as an act of imagination, where the past is re-imagined in terms of the physical present, and will be focused primarily on depictions of two types of structure: pre-existing remains (such as ruins and prehistoric burial mounds) and structures built with the purpose of evoking remembrance (such as Beowulf's grave and Hrothgar's hall). In doing so it will explore the complex dynamic between individual reflection and collective historical memory, both of which are articulated within the poetry through their embodiment in the physical landscape. It will explore what these texts can tell us about Anglo-Saxon conceptions of memory and the relationship between history and landscape and it will argue for a two-way flow of influence, whereby the interior act of memory is stimulated by external landscape features, and, in turn, humans impose an imagined past upon those features. This will involve both close textual and linguistic analysis alongside archaeological evidence on the real-world use of such physical structures.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOccupying Space in Medieval and Early Modern Britain and Ireland.
EditorsGregory Hulsman, Caoimhe Whelan
PublisherPeter Lang
ISBN (Print)978-3-0343-1840-2
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameCourt Cultures of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
PublisherPeter Lang


  • landscape
  • Old English poetry
  • Historiography

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