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.

James Paz

Irish colour term glas, often translated as the colour of ‘sky in water’ or green, grey, blue. And so the bodily substantiation of God cannot be divorced from environmental features. Human beings  –​even saintly humans –​are not at the centre of a system of nature, but entangled within it.2 The elemental fluidity of Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands shapes perceptions of the spiritual world and its relation to the temporal. As well as acting as an assembly, the saintly body is also a thing that crosses the boundaries between life and death, animate and inanimate

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
Open Access (free)
On Anglo-Saxon things
James Paz

divisions between ‘animate’ human subjects and ‘inanimate’ nonhuman objects. Throughout the course of the book, the Anglo-​Saxon thing will be shown to resist such categorisation. The active role that things have in the early medieval world can also be linked to the Germanic origins of the word, where a þing is a kind of assembly, with the ability to gather other elements –​material goods, bodies, words, ideas –​to it. It is in this way that a thing might be said to speak. By moulding meaning and matter together into a distinct whole, a cross, a casket, a book, a relic

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

fully knowing our objects of study, making it difficult to say with absolute certainty how this thing was made, or what that thing was made from, or for whom it was made, or what it was made for, how it functioned, how it might function now, if at all. By claiming animacy or agency, vibrancy or voice, on behalf of things that, from a commonsensical human perspective, seem so inanimate and inert, so still and silent, we not only gain a new understanding of the things themselves but are forced to rethink the concepts we apply to them. This has implications for further

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
Open Access (free)
In the beginning was song
Mads Qvortrup

specificity of sensitive beings. For this reason music, as an object of study, was fundamentally different from other art forms. ‘Colours’, wrote Rousseau, ‘are the ornament of inanimate beings; all matter is coloured; the voice proclaims a being endowed with sense; only a sensitive being can sing’ (V: 420). No wonder Rousseau was fond of quoting Horats’ dictum sunt verba et voces, praeteraque, nihil – ‘there are words and voices and nothing else’ (V: 287). These utterances are a part of his general philosophy. Rousseau never just wrote about music. His writings about music

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Fragility, brokenness and failure
James Paz

) and are reminded ‘ne wæs ðær huru fracodes gealga’ [that was no felon’s gallows] (10). Of course, the denial itself evokes images of human suffering and death –​of a wooden beam on which bodies become corpses, where animate subject is transformed into inanimate object. In these lines, then, the sight seen by the dreamer is multivalent: a tree soaked with gold, a beam which is not a gallows, burning wood and shining symbol. 179 Fragility, brokenness and failure 179 These things are also a human body. The dreamer says that ‘Gimmas stodon /​fægere æt foldan sceatum

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
Open Access (free)
Speaking pictures?
Chloe Porter

the ‘picture’ as an inanimate, motionless, ‘fixed’ object. In this view I build on Jonathan Gil Harris’s useful discussion of physical objects as distinct forms that assume ‘a synchronic temporal framework in the shape of a historical moment’. 43 Harris points out that, in contrast, matter has been understood by both Aristotle and Marx ‘as a sensuous, workable potentiality

in Making and unmaking in early modern English drama
Open Access (free)
Amateur film, civic culture and the rehearsal of monarchy
Karen Lury

representatives of highly visible institutions or mythologies. As captured on this film and in many similar encounters, the child and the Queen have real bodies while, at the same time, they function as if they were inanimate emblems, sites for the projection of history and memory, acting as screen and mirror for social convention and hierarchy. As such, although Hayden here refers only to the monarchy, she might also

in The British monarchy on screen
Thinking, feeling, making
James Paz

I have long been enamoured with the material culture of Beowulf , with the lovely and almost loving descriptions of swords, helms, cups, tapestries, coats of mail, hoards of gold. More recently, I have become intrigued by the craftworkers behind these artefacts, the carpenters, masons, weavers and embroiderers, glassworkers and leatherworkers, and especially the smiths. But what have solid, inanimate artefacts and the hard, manual labour that goes into making those artefacts got to do with intimacy? How can we think about feeling through making

in Dating Beowulf
Open Access (free)
Sara Haslam

’s brain to work in the abstract manner in which he is supposed to be instructive regarding his men; the second relates to the peculiar priority which the passage grants to that which is not happening whilst it also relates that which is. His speech to himself is divided between two conceptual levels (Allyson Booth writes that ‘dead bodies at the Front were simultaneously understood as both animate subjects and inanimate objects’29) in the attempt at avoiding petrification. He sees O Nine Morgan’s dying face, but transposed on it is another very different reality

in Fragmenting modernism