“The Fifteen Signs Before Doomsday and “Post Conquest English Identity”
Stephen Pelle (U of T)
This paper detailed the fifteen signs before Doomsday and spoke about Anglo-Saxon writing just after the Norman Conquest, between 1066 to 1200. English works written in century & a half after Conquest have been given little merit by scholars. Anglo-Saxonist or Middle English scholars don’t acknowledge these texts in their considerations. Thus, this remains a largely unexplored field. Many English homilies were composed in the 12th century.Scholars studied the text in comparison to Latin texts. It’s cultural background and merit has been given scant consideration. It has been compared with later Latin texts. The poem portrays animals as victims vs. as participants in God’s judgement.
Pelle also discussed the imagery behind the ‘Battle of the Stones’,which has clear roots in the Latin tradition. The moralizing edition is unique to the Old English text. Morality was not in the Latin text. Stone castles were the military and symbolic seats of Norman power. By the 11th century, the term ‘castle’ came to take on the Norman meaning as opposed to the Anglo-Saxon meaning of ‘town’. Anglo-Saxons disliked castles; they were new to the English landscape and considered a Norman imposition. The ‘Battle of the Stones’ appears to be a general warning to powerful men and nobility. Anglo-Saxons complain of Norman oppression in the Chronicle. Castles were viewed as the Norman oppression of the Anglo-Saxon identity. The ‘Battle of the Stones’ addresses this grievance against the Normans. The natural world foils Norman attempts to control it when the author writes about the disappearance of animals and plants. There is also the reaction to Norman taxes on produce, i.e., the bleeding of plants and trees because sinful men (Normans) walk on them. It the retaliation of the English landscape against the Norman nobility. These writings are viewed as thinly veiled criticisms of post-Conquest life. The author attempts to reassure his audience with God’s divine retribution against their Norman oppressors. However, not all post-Conquest texts should be read as subversive “anti-Norman” texts and commentaries.
Peter conducted the following interview with Stephen about his paper and post-Conquest English writing: