Map, Manuscript, and Memory: The Emergence of an Anglo-Saxon Identity Between Origins and Apocalypse
By Juliana Marie Chapman
Master’s Thesis, Brigham Young University, 2009
Abstract: As the only extant detailed world map of the Anglo-Saxon period, the Anglo-Saxon map, c. 1025, presents a unique opportunity to explore a sense of Anglo-Saxon social identity as evidenced in this graphic worldview. The Anglo-Saxon map has most often been dismissed as an ill-fitting illustration when viewed solely in its manuscript context or an equally poor navigational tool when considered in the context of modern cartography. The purpose of this thesis is to present the argument that the Anglo-Saxon world map is neither simply a bad illustration nor a poorly rendered map intended for travel, but is rather a richly articulated graphic and linguistic representation of a particularly Anglo-Saxon sense of social identity as it is explored in the midst of a belief in a divine creation, secular origin, and inevitable social apocalypse. This reading of the map is supported by a comparative study of these same three foundational themes as they occur in Old English elegiac literature. The goal of this study is to read the Anglo-Saxon world map in the context of the theoretical framework of social identity demonstrated in Old English elegiac literature. In so doing, a concept of Anglo-Saxon social identity, a cultural expectation of the pull of history and the future, will be presented as it is expressed across artistic genres in Anglo-Saxon England. When viewed in the context of this greater elegiac artistic tradition, the Anglo-Saxon map can be seen as a participatory exploration of Anglo-Saxon identity in the context of the themes of creation, origin, and apocalypse. As such, the map can rightly be viewed as an artifact which was created to be, and remains even now, a carrier of the memory of Anglo-Saxon identity for future generations.