Barnwell Timothy, Missionaries and changing views of ‘the Other’ from the 9th to 12th centuries

Barnwell Timothy, Missionaries and changing views of ‘the Other’ from the 9th to 12th centuries, thèse soutenue en 2014, (dir. I. Wood, University of Leeds)

Résumé/abstract :

This thesis explores the varying ways in which otherness was imagined and constructed in two clusters of medieval missionary texts: Rimbert’s Vita Anskarii and Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum, from the archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen; and Bruno of Querfurt’s Passio Sancti Adalberti episcopi et martyris, Vita vel passio Benedicti et Iohannis sociorumque suorum and Epistola ad Heinricum Regem. Missionaries and the authors who described their work were uniquely concerned with those who lay beyond the geographical, political and spiritual boundaries of Christendom. Accordingly, they provide our principal sources for understanding how such groups were represented. In the first instance, this thesis is concerned with descriptions of groups physically located outside the Carolingian, Ottonian, and Salian Empires, particularly in the Scandinavian and Slavic worlds. But given the fluidity and interconnectedness of early medieval identities, it also encompasses representations of marginalised groups within Christendom such as slaves, women, heretics, Jews and political enemies. Following a brief introduction, the thesis begins by setting out the theoretical foundations of an understanding of otherness based on the expectation of variety. This forms a response to the totalising claims of many recent discussions of otherness. This is followed by a close analysis of each text, beginning with the Hamburg-Bremen material, before moving on to Bruno of Querfurt’s works. The aim is to reflect the peculiar dynamics of each work and, consequently, discussions of these authors’ literary and exegetical concerns form a substantial part of this study. Their presentation of groups within Christendom has also been emphasised; sometimes the other was closer to home. The thesis concludes by emphasising the conceptual variety revealed in each work. Key themes can be identified, but the presentation of otherness in all of these texts is far more diverse and conceptually fragmented than is usually appreciated in existing scholarship.

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