Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture

Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0110-5
  • Pages: 248
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: June 2017
  • BIC Category: Literature & literary studies / Literary theory, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: classical, early & medieval, Anglo-Saxon, Literary theory, Literary studies: ancient & classical, Anglo-Saxon, Medieval Literature, Literature, ART / History / Medieval, HISTORY / Medieval, LITERARY CRITICISM / Medieval
  • Series: Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture


This book is available as an open access ebook under a CC-BY-NC-ND licence.

Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture uncovers the voice and agency possessed by nonhuman things across Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture. It makes a new contribution to 'thing theory' and rethinks conventional divisions between animate human subjects and inanimate nonhuman objects in the early Middle Ages.

Anglo-Saxon writers and craftsmen describe artefacts and animals through riddling forms or enigmatic language, balancing an attempt to speak and listen to things with an understanding that these nonhumans often elude, defy and withdraw from us. But the active role that things have in the early medieval world is also linked to the Germanic origins of the word, where a þing is a kind of assembly, with the ability to draw together other elements, creating assemblages in which human and nonhuman forces combine.


'I thoroughly enjoyed my "tussle" with this book. I fought it sentence by sentence, and sometimes I could not agree, but the process changed my ideas about a lot of things that I thought I already knew. That is a significant achievement.'
Jennifer Neville, University of London, Anglo-Saxon Literature and Material Cultures, Speculum 94.3 (2019)


Introduction: on Anglo-Saxon things
1 Æschere's head, Grendel's mother and the sword that isn't a sword: unreadable things in Beowulf
2 The 'thingness' of time in the Old English riddles of the Exeter Book and Aldhelm's Latin enigmata
3 The riddles of the Franks Casket: enigmas, agency and assemblage
4 Assembling and reshaping Christianity in the Lives of St Cuthbert and Lindisfarne Gospels
5 The Dream of the Rood and the Ruthwell monument: fragility, brokenness and failure
Afterword: old things with new things to say

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