English Language and Literature ETDs

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Until now, Wulfstan, Archbishop of Yorks relationship to and view of Anglo-Saxon kingship has never been comprehensively examined. The lack of attention this topic has received is a glaring omission in Wulfstan scholarship. Wulfstan worked under two kings, \xc6thelred and Cnut, and he had an interest in Edgar that has long been recognized. In response to Wulfstan's career under these kings and his interest in Edgar, scholars have been far too ready to assume that the archbishop's view of kingship was straightforward. It has too long been taken for granted that Wulfstan operated under Cnut in the same manner as his did under \xc6thelred, as if his political viewpoint never changed, for example. Moreover, Alfred and Edgar—both of whom had been vetted by history—left a considerable number of texts which Wulfstan mined extensively for material applicable to the kingdom's situation when he was active. His interaction with these earlier kings reveals that early in Wulfstan's career the archbishop found the position of king to be of the utmost importance to the governance and stability of the kingdom. The reigns of \xc6thelred and Cnut witnessed Wulfstan's application of his views on kingship and what the kingdom needed generally in order to improve, both of which changed over the course of his career. Under \xc6thelred, Wulfstan focused on admonishing and instructing the Anglo-Saxon laity, but after he drafted V \xc6thelred, Wulfstan's texts were aimed at the king, himself, and his witan. They stressed both the essentiality of law and order and the importance of the king to society as a whole. His texts from Cnut's reign, however, reveal that it is not primarily the king that interested Wulfstan during these years, but, rather, the administration of the kingdom in general. In them, the position of king was actually deemphasized.'

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Graham, Timothy

Second Committee Member

Damico, Helen

Third Committee Member

Obermeier, Anita

Project Sponsors

Bilinski Educational Foundation




Wulfstan, Old English, Anglo-Saxon England

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