Date of Award
Master of Arts
Cynewulf's poem, Juliana, relates the story of a female saint who is remarkably independent and authoritative, denying any obligation to follow legal, cultural, or familial expectations that conflict with her understanding of her Christian faith. Historical evidence indicates that Juliana and stories like it enjoyed wide promotion from the ninth-century English church and wide veneration from many different kinds of people. However, the church itself did not advocate the radicalism Juliana seems to promote. Instead it was conservative, interested in maintaining its influence and the status quo rather than in promoting independent practices of faith. The question emerges: how could the church simultaneously promote stories about radical saints and advocate a fundamentally conservative practice of faith? This paper proposes four potential ways that the church could reconcile this apparent contradiction. One is to emphasize Juliana's status as a saint rather than a common believer. Another possibility is to promote "legitimate" authority in the face of the "illegitimate" authority of Viking attackers. Yet a third perspective is to emphasize the way saints as a whole interact with people on earth, and finally, to emphasize the way in which people on earth can maintain a proper relationship with heaven. These four areas potentially allowed the church to interpret Juliana's independent, unmediated faith in a way which let it simultaneously promote her independence and its own communal, mediated faith.
Kimberly Joy Tanner
Tanner, Kimberly Joy, "Radical saints and conservative churches: Cynewulf's Juliana in its cultural context" (2010). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 11392.