Stealing Obedience: Narratives of Agency and Identity in Later Anglo-Saxon England

by Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe

© 2012

Narratives of monastic life in Anglo-Saxon England depict individuals as responsible agents in the assumption and performance of religious identities. To modern eyes, however, many of the ‘choices’ they make would actually appear to be compulsory. Stealing Obedience explores how a Christian notion of agent action – where freedom incurs responsibility – was a component of identity in the last hundred years of Anglo-Saxon England, and investigates where agency (in the modern sense) might be sought in these narratives.

Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe looks at Benedictine monasticism through the writings of Ælfric, Anselm, Osbern of Canterbury, and Goscelin of Saint-Bertin, as well as liturgy, canon and civil law, chronicle, dialogue, and hagiography, to analyse the practice of obedience in the monastic context. Stealing Obedience brings a highly original approach to the study of Anglo-Saxon narratives of obedience in the adoption of religious identity.

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Product Details

  • Series: Toronto Anglo-Saxon Series
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 296 pages
  • Illustrations: 1
  • Dimensions: 6.2in x 1.0in x 9.3in
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Quick Overview

Stealing Obedience explores how a Christian notion of agent action – where freedom incurs responsibility – was a component of identity in the last hundred years of Anglo-Saxon England, and investigates where agency (in the modern sense) might be sought in these narratives.

Stealing Obedience: Narratives of Agency and Identity in Later Anglo-Saxon England

by Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe

© 2012

Narratives of monastic life in Anglo-Saxon England depict individuals as responsible agents in the assumption and performance of religious identities. To modern eyes, however, many of the ‘choices’ they make would actually appear to be compulsory. Stealing Obedience explores how a Christian notion of agent action – where freedom incurs responsibility – was a component of identity in the last hundred years of Anglo-Saxon England, and investigates where agency (in the modern sense) might be sought in these narratives.

Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe looks at Benedictine monasticism through the writings of Ælfric, Anselm, Osbern of Canterbury, and Goscelin of Saint-Bertin, as well as liturgy, canon and civil law, chronicle, dialogue, and hagiography, to analyse the practice of obedience in the monastic context. Stealing Obedience brings a highly original approach to the study of Anglo-Saxon narratives of obedience in the adoption of religious identity.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Toronto Anglo-Saxon Series
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 296 pages
  • Illustrations: 1
  • Dimensions: 6.2in x 1.0in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    ‘Solid cultural and historical grounding, artfully framed by appropriate theoretical models, characterize this study… Highly recommended’
    M.B. Busbee
    Choice Magazine; vol 50:04:2012

    Stealing Obedience is a fresh look at a body of narrative sources which have only rarely been theorized and troubled so effectively.’


    Justin Haar
    Comitatus vol 44: September 2013

    ‘A pleasure to read…Speaks to a range of disciplinary interests, and deserves attention as an authoritative contribution to debates about identity and selfhood in Middle Ages.’


    Catherine A.M. Clarke
    Modern Language Review vol 108:04:2013

    ‘Imaginative and sophisticated monograph…  Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe must be warmly congratulated on her fine accomplishment, which will be useful to scholars interested in English monastic life and obedience on either side of the Norman Conquest.’


    Francesca Tinti
    Speculum vol 90:01:2015

    ‘A compelling and compassionate account of agency and identity in late Anglo-Saxon England. Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe’s deep learning, theoretical acumen, and elegant prose are evident at every turn as she illuminates the tantalizing paradox of how obedience and service to others might prove the ultimate path to human freedom. Stealing Obedience is groundbreaking scholarship and will be the definitive work on this subject for the foreseeable future.’
    Stacy S. Klein, Rutgers University
  • Author Information

    Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe is a professor in the Department of English and the director of the Medieval Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley.

  • Table of contents

    Plate

    Acknowledgments

    List of Abbreviations

    Introduction:  On Stealing Obedience

    1: Dunstan in the Theatre of Choice

    2: ‘Esto quod es’: Ælfric’s Colloquy and the Imperatives of Monastic Identity

    3: Edith’s Choice

    4: Leaving Wilton: Gunhild and the Phantoms of Agency

    5: The Silence of Eve

    Afterword

    Bibliography

    Index

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