Eleventh-Century Drag Acts? Three Old English Poems at Exeter Cathedral


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Eleventh-Century Drag Acts? Three Old English Poems at Exeter Cathedral
Exemplaria: Medieval, Early Modern, Theory
Critten Rory G.
Publication state
In Press
The Exeter Book was made towards the end of the tenth century; by the mid-eleventh century at the latest it was at Exeter Cathedral, where bishop Leofric had installed a community of canons living under the Enlarged Rule of Chrodegang. This essay seeks to recreate the reception amongst Exeter’s mid-eleventh-century canons of three Exeter Book poems: The Wife’s Lament, Wulf and Eadwacer, and The Husband’s Message. I advance evidence suggesting that The Wife’s Lament and Wulf and Eadwacer were performed by Exeter canons and adduce contemporary drag as a parallel to these putative renditions of the poems. My approach affords fresh perspectives on the ambivalent gendering of the texts’ voices and the identifications that they might foster between the canons and women beyond the cathedral close. The presentation of The Husband’s Message in the Exeter Book suggests that it was destined for private reading. In this mode, I argue, the poem invites its male readers at Exeter Cathedral to perform a mental impersonation of gender by assuming the position of its second person woman addressee. Finally, I show that the three poems support a breadth of thinking about gender that might be matched at other locations in early medieval England.
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11/09/2020 8:08
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05/11/2020 6:22
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