The signficance of the wyrm in Early Medieval England

Millard, Hannah Katherine (2022). The signficance of the wyrm in Early Medieval England. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis argues that, rather than being viewed as an incidental feature of Old English literary texts, the group of creatures referred to as wyrmas should be viewed as a significant, symbolic feature of early medieval English culture. Wyrmas were a diverse category of creatures which included parasites, snakes, serpents residing in Hell, grave-dwelling creatures and even dragons; it is this diversity that allowed wyrmas to become synonymous with imagery of death and corruption, but also with the hope of resurrection in a developing Christian society. The significance of wyrmas will be demonstrated through an interdisciplinary study of literary and theological sources in Old English and Latin, alongside archaeological material; these sources will be considered alongside theoretical frameworks of taxonomy and categorisation in order to facilitate a greater understanding of the meaning of wyrmas. This thesis will examine the stages of the human experience as understood by early medieval English people – life, death and the afterlife – to demonstrate that wyrmas became a way to express the anxieties and hopes of early medieval people as they reconciled with Christian beliefs and doctrine.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: Other
Other Funders: University of Birmingham
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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