Robin Norris, Carleton University

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Associate Professor English Language and Literature Ottawa, Ontario robin.norris@carleton.ca Mobile: (613) 526-2348
Office: (613) 520-2600 ext. 4195

Bio/Research

I am currently exploring how female saints were categorized in Anglo-Saxon England. There are two main genres of saints' lives, or hagiography, which was one of the most popular forms of literature throughout the Middle Ages. Because saints' lives can be divided into two categories – the passion ...

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Bio/Research

I am currently exploring how female saints were categorized in Anglo-Saxon England. There are two main genres of saints' lives, or hagiography, which was one of the most popular forms of literature throughout the Middle Ages. Because saints' lives can be divided into two categories – the passion and the uita – scholars have assumed that there are two corresponding categories of saints: the martyr and the confessor. Yet the Anglo-Saxon litany of the saints, a very influential form of prayer, divides saints into not two but three categories: martyr, confessor, and virgin. All martyrs and confessors are male, and all female saints, whether they were martyred or not, fall into the third category: the virgins. What is at stake in this segregation of female saints into an overarching and essentializing category? How are Anglo-Saxon conceptions of female sanctity different from those prevalent in the later Middle Ages, when the “virgin martyr” looms large? These questions form the subject of my current book project, for which I have applied for SSHRC support.

I also have an abiding interest in constructions of masculinity in Anglo-Saxon literature. Scholars often speak of a “heroic code” that determines gender roles and expectations like the repression of emotion. But this heroic code is more a product of Victorian medievalism than Anglo-Saxon culture. In fact, mourning men abound in texts like “The Wanderer” and Beowulf, and they feature prominently in hagiographic texts including Guthlac B.

My interest in gender informs my teaching of graduate seminars like Hagiography in Early Medieval England or The Postmodern Beowulf. I also teach an introductory Old English language course that graduate students may take for credit.


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