Old Age in Early Medieval England: A Cultural History

Old Age in Early Medieval England: A Cultural History

by Thijs Porck


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How did Anglo-Saxons reflect on the experience of growing old? Was it really a golden age for the elderly, as has been suggested? This first full survey of the Anglo-Saxon cultural conceptualisation of old age, as manifested and reflected in the texts and artwork of the inhabitants of early medieval England, presents a more nuanced and complicated picture. The author argues that although senescence was associated with the potential for wisdom and pious living, the Anglo-Saxons also anticipated various social, psychological and physical repercussions of growing old. Their attitude towards elderly men and women - whether they were saints, warriors or kings - was equally ambivalent.
Multidisciplinary in approach, this book makes use of a wide variety of sources, ranging from the visual arts to hagiography, homiletic literature and heroic poetry. Individual chapters deal with early medieval definitions ofthe life cycle; the merits and drawbacks of old age as represented in Anglo-Saxon homilies and wisdom poetry; the hagiographic topos of elderly saints; the portrayal of grey-haired warriors in heroic literature; Beowulf asa mirror for elderly kings; and the cultural roles attributed to old women.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781783276349
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer, Limited
Publication date: 06/22/2021
Series: Anglo-Saxon Studies , #33
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.61(d)

Table of Contents

Definitions of Old Age
Merits of Old Age
Drawbacks of Old Age
frode fyrnwitan: Old Saints in Anglo-Saxon Hagiography
hare hilderincas: Old Warriors in Anglo-Saxon England
ealde eðelweardas: Beowulf as a Mirror of Elderly Kings
gamole geomeowlan: Old Women in Anglo-Saxon England

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