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The representation of the mind as an enclosure in Old English poetry

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 June 2007

Abstract

The frequent representation of the mind as a potentially secure enclosure in Old English poetry has unrecognized implications for interpretation. The mind as imagined by Anglo-Saxon poets exhibits both capabilities of an enclosure: containment and exclusion; but the most common image is one of containment, specifically of reified thoughts, knowledge or discourse as figurative treasure objects. This model's interaction with traditional value systems invests it with ethical meaning: what is inside or outside of the mind either should or should not be allowed to pass through its boundary. Mental valuables are closely analogous to material wealth and are subject to the same imperatives for their management and use. The poetry also reflects anxiety about the privacy of the individual mind, which allows the accumulation and concealment of a perverse hord of deceit, sin or folly that can cause social harm through a failure of containment.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006

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