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Shaping Anglo-Saxon Lordship in the Heroic Literature of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries

Shaping Anglo-Saxon Lordship in the Heroic Literature of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries

Hill, John

The Heroic Age Issue 3 Summer 2000

Abstract

Most scholars of Anglo-Saxon heroic story think of that literature as embodying conventional virtues (generosity, bravery, boasting), obligations (to kin and lord) and conflicts of loyalty. This overview of a contrary view stresses the political nature of those stories — whether in prose or poetry — and argues, essentially, for the reformation of traditional codes and obligations. That reformation has the strengthening of lordship and, ultimately, of kingship in mind. The reshaping of traditional codes begins in the literary record during the period of Alfred’s father and grandfather, early to mid-eighth century, and continues down to the end of the eleventh century.

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