Date of Award

8-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Major Professor

Roy M. Liuzza

Committee Members

Mary Dzon, Thomas A. J. Heffernan, Maura K. Lafferty

Abstract

The most recent codicological studies of London, British Library Cotton MS Vitellius A.xv, part 2, also known as the Nowell Codex or Beowulf-Manuscript, have looked to its many depictions of monsters as an explanation for why it was compiled. Nicholas Howe, however, proposed that the Nowell Codex functioned as a “book of elsewhere,” treating the five texts as a “gathering” particularly invested in a reappraisal of the cultural implications of geography. This dissertation describes the three prose texts of the Nowell Codex as one such “gathering” which explores alternative ideas of spiritual geography, specifically in regards to the religious implications of geographic space and its intersection with earthly power. In the Passion of Saint Christopher, Christopher operates as a subversive figure whose marginality makes him both a potent missionary and social revolutionary; in particular, a historical association between the Cynocephali and the Scandinavian North would have given Christopher a cultural association with the Germanic missionary frontier. The second chapter analyzes the complicated transmission history of the Wonders of the East to demonstrate how the text fails to provide any coherent way of controlling the marginal figures in the text. The final chapter explores how Alexander in the Letter of Alexander to Aristotle moves through India completely unaware of his own marginality to the vast spiritual power of India and the resulting conflict with the land. The study concludes with a short analysis of Beowulf and Judith to demonstrate how these texts are also a part of this “gathering” of texts exploring marginality and the spiritual implications of geography.

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