Old English Judith: A Study of Poetic Style, Theological Tradition and Anglo-Saxon Christian Concepts

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This book offers a thorough literary, cultural and linguistic study of the Old English Judith. As a comprehensive interpretation of the text, it brings together and evaluates the work of scholars who have dealt with only individual aspects of the text. Furthermore, it places the poem within the context of the theological thought and religious poetry of Old and Middle English provenance.

This is the first book-length study of the Old-English Judith which takes in different aspects of its composition and reception. An original work containing research on Anglo-Saxon material and the topic of Judith overall written in German and makes it accessible in English. A contribution to the field.


“This book is greatly welcomed not only because here at last is a book on Judith but also, for the comprehensiveness of its treatment and for the new insights it provides across an ambitious range of interrelated areas.”
-Prof. Hugh Magennis,
Queen’s University Belfast

“This book is bound to become the point of reference for all future studies on the Anglo-Saxon Judith… It provides interdisciplinary new insights in a number of fascinating topics ranging from questions of gender to rhetoric.”
-Prof. Henrike Lähnemann,
Newcastle University, UK

“…a clear and comprehensive overview of the poem…The descriptions of the text, tradition and poetics represent the work of a scholar au fait with the field, and are readable and comprehensible for the expert and the novice alike.”
-Prof. Tracey-Anne Cooper,
St. John’s University, NY

Table of Contents

Foreword by Hugh Magennis
1. The Text
1.1 The Manuscript
1.2 The Date of the Poem
1.3 The Fragmentary State of the Poem
1.4 Sources
2. The Tradition
2.1 The Theological Interpretation of the Book of Judith 2.2 Ælfric’s Multiple Interpretations of the Book of Judith 2.3 Other Vernacular Judith Narratives of the Early Middle Ages
2.3.1 Ältere and Jüngere Judith of the Vorau Manuscript (Twelfth century, Middle High German)
3. The Poem
3.1 The Art of the Poet
3.1.1 The Narrative Structure and its Effect
3.1.2 Epithets, Keywords, Parallelism, irony and the Role of the Narrator Doubt, Faith and the Almighty Holofernes, Gumena Baldor, and Judith, Ides Ælfscinu The Feast – Perverted Social Ideals and Impending Doom Evil Intentions, obedient Retainers and Abused leadership Wuldres Dema and Deofulcunda ”Genam ða wundenlocc scyppendes mœgð scearpne mece […]” Returning Home – Triumph and Community Celebration, Exhortation and Battle The Assyrians’’ Defeat Victory, Booty and Praise
3.2 Violence in the Old English Judith
3.2.1 Aspects of Violence in the Narrative
3.2.2 Types of Violence
3.2.3 Motivations for Violence
3.2.4 Emotions in the context of violence Judith and her People Holofernes and the Assyrians
3.2.5 Dynamics of Violence
3.3 Virginity
3.3.1 The OE Judith – Like a Virgin?
3.3.2 Why is Virginity Important for this Study>
4. Steadfast Victims and Wise Aggressors – Changing Feminine Ideals in Christian Poetry
4.1 The Fighting Saints – Anglo-Saxon Heroines Do It Alike (?)
4.1.1 Judith
4.1.2 Elene
4.1.3 Juliana
4.2 The Power of Passivity – Virgin Martyr Legends
4.2.1 Virginity
4.2.2 Power
4.2.3 Violence
4.3 Changing Feminine Ideals in Context
5. Conclusion
6. Appendices
6.1 Translation
6.2 Terms and Epithets
6.2.1 Judith and Her Handmaid
6.2.2 God
6.2.3 Holofernes
6.2.4 The Hebrews
6.2.5 The Assyrians
7. Bibliography
7.1 Abbreviations
7.2 Primary Sources
7.3 Secondary Sources

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