Imagining Anglo-Saxon England: Utopia, Heterotopia, Dystopia [Paperback]

Catherine E. Karkov(Author)

ISBN: 9781783276981 | Published by: Boydell Press | Series: Boydell Studies in Medieval Art and Architecture | Volume: 21 | Year of Publication: 2022 | 282p, H9.25 x W6.25, 5 color, 6 b/w illus.
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Other Formats

Hardback - ISBN: 9781783275199

Imagining Anglo-Saxon England


This book explores the ways in which early medieval England was envisioned as an ideal, a placeless, and a conflicted geography in works of art and literature from the eighth to the eleventh century and in their modern scholarly and popular afterlives. It suggests that what came to be called "Anglo-Saxon England" has always been an imaginary place, an empty space into which ideas of what England was, or should have been, or should be, have been inserted from the arrival of peoples from the Continent in the fifth and sixth centuries to the arrival of the self-named "alt-right" in the twenty-first. It argues that the political and ideological violence that was a part of the origins of England as a place and the English as a people has never been fully acknowledged; instead, the island was reimagined as a chosen land home to a chosen people, the gens Anglorum. Unacknowledged violence, however, continued to haunt English history and culture. Through her examination here of the writings of Bede and King Alfred, the Franks Casket and the illuminated Wonders of the East, and the texts collected together to form the Beowulf manuscript, the author shows how this continues to haunt "Anglo-Saxon Studies" as a discipline and Anglo-Saxonism as an ideology, from the antiquarian studies of the sixteenth century through to the nationalistic and racist violence of today.

Table of Contents

A plan for utopia to come
Utopia past and the heterotopia of origins
Utopia/dystopia: humanity and its others in the Beowulf manuscript
Retrotopia: Anglo-Saxonism, Anglo-Saxonists, and the myth of origins

Reviews & Quotes

"Briskly written and including a rich bibliography and references to current scholarship, the book casts a wide net into both critical theory and Anglo-Saxon studies. It deserves a wide audience."


"Importantly, Karkov has positioned her voice within a monograph, which enables her to develop a sustained and complex argument that asks her reader to think deeply and honestly about issues that have been the subject of much division and derisiveness. The importance of what Karkov has done for the field of early medieval studies by writing Imagining Anglo-Saxon England cannot be overstated."

The Medieval Review ()

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