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
James Paz

59 2 The ‘thingness’ of time in the Old English riddles of the Exeter Book and Aldhelm’s Latin enigmata What do we make of the transformation of things over time? Maybe one also ought to ask what things make of us over time: how are human beings transformed by the things that carry the traces of our voices and our bodies when we are gone? The Old English and Anglo-​Latin riddling traditions give voice to things, as if they could answer such a question. Yet, for the most part, criticism has focused on the rhetorical device of prosopopoeia, whereby the human

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
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.

Steve Sohmer

–3) For four hundred years the cryptic letters M.O.A.I. have remained a stubborn, even notorious crux. In his Arden Series 3 edition, Keir Elam declared, ‘This fustian riddle has proved ... as much a trap for critics as for Malvolio.’ 1 Indeed, M.O.A.I. personifies the definition of a crux: ‘A difficulty which it torments or troubles one greatly to

in Reading Shakespeare’s mind
Open Access (free)
On Anglo-Saxon things
James Paz

afterwards, the twisted pattern of fate; that is a wondrous thing to speak.] (Exeter Book Riddle 39)2 Anglo-​Saxon things and theory Things could talk in Anglo-​Saxon literature and material culture. Many of these Anglo-​Saxon things are still with us today and are still talkative. Nonhuman voices leap out from the Exeter Book riddles, telling us where they came from, how they were made, how they do or do not act. 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 in

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
Open Access (free)
Troubling race, ethnicity, and masculinity in Beowulf
Catalin Taranu

‘beadwe heard’ (battle-hard) (1539a) and ‘þa he gebolgen wæs, / feorhgeniðlan’ (then he was swollen [or enraged] by the life-enemy) (1539b–1540a). Although these also work as combat metaphors, the whole episode has been described as ‘a lengthy erotic double entendre riddle fused into a longer narrative poem’, employed purposefully to paint Beowulf as full of a very masculine vigour, but also as a sexually engaged combatant. 16 But there is more at work here

in Dating Beowulf
Unreadable things in Beowulf
James Paz

–​784). By examining this passage in Beowulf, this chapter highlights connections between Grendel’s mother and the giants’ sword found in her underwater hall, arguing that they are both riddle-​like things that resist the kind of reading that Æschere was meant to offer King Hrothgar. Indeed, Æschere’s death provokes an anxiety in the text about ‘things’ that defy human interpretation and convey monstrous, marginal or altogether unknowable messages instead. While Beowulf is sensitive to the fact that a range of artefacts, including swords, have always been legible, the text

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
Author: Steve Sohmer

This book will come as a revelation to Shakespeare scholars everywhere. It reveals the identity of the playwright and Shakespeare’s colleague behind the mask of Jaques in As You Like It. It pinpoints the true first night of Twelfth Night and reveals why the play’s performance at the Inns of Court was a momentous occasion for shakespeare. It also the identities Quinapalus, the Vapians, Pigrogromitus and Feste, as well as the ‘Dark Lady’ of the Sonnets and the inspiration for Jessica in The Merchant of Venice. And it solves Shakespeare’s greatest riddle: the meaning of M.O.A.I. in Twelfth Night. In sum, this book reveals William Shakespeare as a far more personal writer than we have ever imagined.

Fragility, brokenness and failure
James Paz

ongoing process of becoming. I will start by closely analysing the poem as it exists in the Vercelli Book manuscript, carrying out a reading of the text in light of thing theory, looking at how the various things represented in the poem (tree, beam, beacon, gallows, rood, body) transform one another, but how they also shift and shape the human ‘dreamer’ as he speaks his vision. I will acknowledge the riddle-​like nature of this poem yet contend that this is nevertheless a riddle without a solution. This point is crucial because it is their resistance to objectification

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
Open Access (free)
New generation Northern Irish poets (Sinéad Morrissey and Nick Laird)
Michael Parker

in the way Laird intercuts the secular and the religious, and finds transformative potential in the everyday. There is poetry in opening my eyes when everyone’s praying. The wave machine of my father’s breathing, my mother’s limestone-fingered steeple, my sister’s tiny fidgets, and me, moon-eyed, unforgetting (p. 5) The poem closes with a form of release, with an image of two unwieldy oak doors flapping open ‘to let us out’. Like the building from which they leave (a church?), the poem resembles ‘some great injured bird trying to take flight’. ‘The Riddles of the

in Irish literature since 1990