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Towards a reception history for 'Beowulf' in the context of the Nowell Codex, British Library Cotton MS Vitellius A.xv.

Thomson, SCF; (2017) Towards a reception history for 'Beowulf' in the context of the Nowell Codex, British Library Cotton MS Vitellius A.xv. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Beowulf exists in only one eleventh-century manuscript, alongside four other texts: St Christopher, The Wonders of the East, Alexander’s Letter to Aristotle, and Judith. At first glance, the texts have little in common with one another: three are verse and two prose; two are religious, three secular. Dealing with religious persecution, remarkable animals, military campaigns, monster fights, and a female assassin, these texts cover Rome, Persia, India, southern Scandinavia, and Israel. This thesis considers some of the meanings Beowulf seems to carry in the context of its manuscript, exploring some ways an eleventh-century audience was expected to engage with it. The complex discussions in the critical heritage about the history of this manuscript are revisited before the thesis moves on to a study of its makers. These scribes and draughtsmen are accessed through detailed discussion of the images in Wonders of the East and the work of the manuscript’s two scribes in each of their texts. The discussion moves on to exploring evidence for reading processes in the eleventh century, and a literary discussion which explores some ideas the texts have in common and other intertextual interpretations.   The thesis finds that the codex is not a random collection of texts but was constructed with care. Some orthographic, palaeographical, and linguistic features of the texts suggest that they came from three different exemplars. In its own day, therefore, the codex re-presented Beowulf in a new context, inviting the audience to rediscover an old text in new ways. This finding opens questions about Anglo-Saxon readership, the processes involved in manuscript-making, and earlier reception contexts for Beowulf which, then as now, seems to have been a persistently re-visioned and re-presented text.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Towards a reception history for 'Beowulf' in the context of the Nowell Codex, British Library Cotton MS Vitellius A.xv.
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
Keywords: Beowulf, manuscript, scribe, reader, reception, medieval, Anglo-Saxon, Cnut
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1470245
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