Author: James Paz

Anglo-Saxon ‘things’ could talk. Nonhuman voices leap out from the Exeter Book Riddles, telling us how they were made or how they behave. In The Husband’s Message, runic letters are borne and a first-person speech is delivered by some kind of wooden artefact. Readers of The Dream of the Rood will come across a tree possessing the voice of a dreaming human in order to talk about its own history as a gallows and a rood. The Franks Casket is a box of bone that alludes to its former fate as a whale that swam aground onto the shingle, and the Ruthwell monument is a stone column that speaks as if it were living wood, or a wounded body.

This book uncovers the voice and agency that these nonhuman things have 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. 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. Anglo-Saxon things teach us to rethink the concept of voice as a quality that is not simply imposed upon nonhumans but which inheres in their ways of existing and being in the world; they teach us to rethink the concept of agency as arising from within groupings of diverse elements, rather than always emerging from human actors alone.

Open Access (free)
On Anglo-Saxon things
James Paz

1 Introduction: On Anglo-​Saxon things How many things, Files, doorsills, atlases, wine glasses, nails, Serve us like slaves who never say a word, Blind and so mysteriously reserved. (Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Things’)1 Næfre hio heofonum hran,  ne to helle mot, ac hio sceal wideferh  wuldorcyninges larum lifgan.  Long is to secganne hu hyre ealdorgesceaft  æfter gongeð, woh wyrda gesceapu;  þæt is wrætlic þing to gesecganne. [It never reaches heaven, nor to hell, but it must always live within the king of glory’s laws. Long it is to say how its life-​shape spins on

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
James Paz

acknowledge the flux and fluidity of things is to acknowledge that they endure over different temporalities to human beings, sometimes radically different timescales:  from the ever-​transforming raincloud to the gradual decay of a stone wall.4 As a literary form built upon metaphor, the riddle is perfectly placed to show how all things shift shape (from ice to water, fire to 60 60 Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture smoke, honey to mead, ox to leather, sheep to book, ore to gold) as time unfolds. In this chapter, I will listen to the voices

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
Open Access (free)
Old things with new things to say
James Paz

216 Afterword: Old things with new things to say This book has shown that things could talk in diverse ways in Anglo-​Saxon culture and the interpretations of literary and material artefacts presented in this study illustrate the validity of ‘thing theory’ as a critical focus for our understanding of this period. My aim has been to offer a model of how we can record, reflect on, amplify and interact with nonhuman voices without distorting them. Instead of looking through the early medieval things treated in this study, as if they are windows into a distant time

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
Enigmas, agency and assemblage
James Paz

98 3 The riddles of the Franks Casket: Enigmas, agency and assemblage Since its recovery from Auzon, France, in 1859 by English antiquary Sir Augustus Franks, the whalebone chest known as the Franks or Auzon Casket has been a ‘fascinating enigma’ to those who have studied it and among the most ‘intriguing and irritating’ of Anglo-​Saxon artefacts to have survived.1 Now held in the British Museum, it has been dated to the early eighth century and is likely to be of Northumbrian craftsmanship, though more exact details of its original context are unknown. The

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
Fragility, brokenness and failure
James Paz

in any congregation or meshwork there is a ‘friction and violence between parts’ so that assemblages are ‘living, throbbing confederations that are able to function despite the persistent presence of energies that confound them from within’.1 As such, when looking at how things are assembled in a poem like The Dream, we need to attend not only to the way in which the bits 176 176 Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture and pieces come together but to how they suffer wounding, damage, breakage, but then seek new encounters to creatively

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
James Paz

, relics and other material things associated with the cult of St Cuthbert reshaped ‘universal’ Christianity within a distinctly Northumbrian environment in the seventh and early eighth centuries. St Cuthbert has been identified as a post-​Whitby figure of reconciliation, preserving the best of the ‘Celtic’ ascetic tradition while actively promoting a new order more in line with the European mainstream in Northumbria.1 In 140 140 Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture light of this view, I will consider how the saint –​both as text, in the

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
Unreadable things in Beowulf
James Paz

them. Unreadable things can disrupt a longstanding human reliance upon legibility, altering the way we interpret that which has come before us. 36 36 Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture Killing the reader Readers of Beowulf do not really encounter Æschere (he is not singled out as a recognisable individual, nor is he named) until he is dead. In line 1251, there is this allusion to him:  ‘Sum sare angeald /​æfenræste’ [one paid sorely for his evening-​rest]. Here, Æschere is merely ‘a certain one’ among the retainers who has been chosen

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
Open Access (free)
Criticisms, futures, alternatives

In the late 1990s Third Way governments were in power across Europe - and beyond, in the USA and Brazil, for instance. The Third Way experiment was one that attracted attention worldwide. The changes made by Left parties in Scandinavia, Holland, France or Italy since the late 1980s are as much part of Third Way politics as those developed in Anglo-Saxon countries. Since the early 1990s welfare reform has been at the heart of the Centre-Left's search for a new political middle way between post-war social democracy and Thatcherite Conservatism. For Tony Blair, welfare reform was key to establishing his New Labour credentials - just as it was for Bill Clinton and the New Democrats in the USA. Equality has been 'the polestar of the Left', and the redefinition of this concept by Giddens and New Labour marks a significant departure from post-war social democratic goals. The most useful way of approaching the problem of the Blair Government's 'Third Way' is to apply the term to its 'operational code': the precepts, assumptions and ideas that actually inform policy choice. The choice would be the strategy of public-private partnership (PPP) or the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), as applied to health policy. New Labour is deeply influenced by the thoughts and sentiments of Amitai Etzioni and the new communitarian movement. Repoliticisation is what stands out from all the contributions of reconstructing the Third Way along more progressive lines.

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Troubling race, ethnicity, and masculinity in Beowulf
Catalin Taranu

with Grendel's mother and then in the Grendelkin's broader connection to tensions between Anglo-Saxons and indigenous Britons and, later, the Danes. Gender, race, and ethnicity are too intimately entwined to focus on any one of these aspects in isolation, for as Geraldine Heng remarks, ‘the ability of racial logic to stalk and merge with other hierarchical systems – such as class, gender, or sexuality’ allows race to function as class, ‘ethnicity’, religion, or sexuality. 3 In the following, I fix

in Dating Beowulf