The Natural World in the Exeter Book Riddles

April 2017
227 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Nature and Environment in the Middle Ages
ISBN: 9781843844648
Format: Hardback
Library eBook

The Natural World in the Exeter Book Riddles

Corinne Dale

An investigation of the non-human world in the Exeter Book riddles, drawing on the exciting new approaches of eco-criticism and eco-theology.
Humanity is a dominant presence in the Exeter Book riddle collection. It is frequently shown using, shaping and binding the physical world in which it lives. The riddles depict master and craftsman and use the familiar human world as a point of orientation within a vast, overwhelming cosmos. But the riddles also offer an eco-centric perspective, one that considers the natural origins of man-made products and the personal plight of useful human resources.
This study offers fresh insights into the collection, investigating humanity's interaction with, and attitudes towards, the rest of the created world. Drawing on the principles of eco-criticism and eco-theology, the study considers the cultural and biblical influences on the depiction of nature in the collection, arguing that the texts engage with post-lapsarian issues of exploitation, suffering and mastery. Depictions of marginalised perspectives of sentient and non-sentient beings, such as trees, ore and oxen, are not just characteristic of the riddle genre, but are actively used to explore the point of view of the natural world and the impact humanity has on its non-human inhabitants. The author not only explores the riddles' resistance to anthropocentrism, but challenges our own tendency to read these enigmas from a human-centred perspective.

Corinne Dale gained her PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London.

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Table of Contents

'be sonde, sæwealle neah': Locating Non-Human Subjects in an Anthropocentric World
'earfoða dæl': The Groan of Travail in the Ox-Riddles
'wrætlic weorc smiþa': Inverting the Colophon in Riddle 26
'deope gedolgod': Wounding and Shaping in Riddles 53 and 73
'fruman agette / eall of earde': The Principle of Accountability in Riddle 83
'mægene binumen': The Failure of Human Mastery in the Wine and Mead Riddles
'swa ne wenaþ men': The Limits of Wisdom in Riddle 84 and the Storm Riddles


Refreshing and original. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

A pioneering contribution that is worth taking into account. . . . [It] deserves a prominent place in the library of any scholar intending to do research on these texts. MODERN PHILOLOGY

Dale's ecocentric readings provide much food for thought and reveal the critic's discerning attentiveness to the rich and paradoxical qualities of the Old English poems themselves. SPECULUM

Makes a strong case for the place of "green studies" in Old English literature. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

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