English Publications and Other Works

Source Publication (e.g., journal title)

New Readings on Women and Early Medieval English and Culture: Cross-Disciplinary Studies in Honour of Helen Damico

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



DOI: 10.2307/j.ctvs32tc6.15


In their introduction to New Readings on Women in Old English Literature, Helen Damico and Alexandra Hennessey Olsen noted that previous work on Old English texts such as Beowulf were skewed towards male experience, and they called for a corrective turn towards women’s experiences in Old English scholarship to create a richer perspective on the literature. Many useful studies of Beowulf have since answered their call, but comparable studies on the Beowulf-Manuscript as a whole (London, British Library, Cotton Vitellius A.xv part 2) have been slow to arrive because of the physical state of the manuscript. Both The Passion of Saint Christopher and the poem Judith are missing quires which prominently featured the deeds of women. Highlighting women’s experiences in this manuscript, therefore, also requires reconstructing their presence in the physical evidence.

Based on the manuscript evidence, The Passion of Saint Christopher would have also contained an account of the martyrs Nicaea and Aquilina in the four folios immediately preceding fol. 94r. This chapter therefore uses their story as a theoretical lens for the rest of the Beowulf manuscript, which will highlight the important roles women play as cultural, religious and symbolic mediators, as well as examples of how one should properly respond to the marvelous. Nicaea and Aquilina's and role in the manuscript context of the English Christopher legend also opens up the tantalizing possibility of female readership for Beowulf.

Submission Type

Publisher's Version

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