The recent explosion of interest in the theory and practice of ‘life-writing’ provides a valuable new opportunity to reassess these texts with new critical tools at hand.
There is much to be gained from interpreting the tenth-century Exeter Book riddles as a characteristically biographical group of texts. They comprise a rich source of information for the study of Anglo-Saxon concepts of life courses and life stages.
Among the Exeter Book riddle collection there is a group more or less explicitly of riddles which deals sex.
The linguistic composition of the Exeter Book Riddles supports this, and in fact, the genre became a refuge for contemporary colloquial speech which was seen as coarse and lower class within the ideologies of Christianity and Germanic heroism.
We should be aware that the semantic scope of each word may vary drastically and that the reader is influenced by many variables in attaching the meaning to a given word. The question becomes trickier if we take the allegorical viewpoint, because polysemy is concerned with the entire text, not with just a word. Thus, we should not consider the surface meaning of the words, but look more carefully for the covert meanings.
This is a summary of the The London Medieval Graduate Network Inaugural Conference by Rachel Scott. The conference was held on November 2nd at King’s College London.