The Natural World in the Exeter Book Riddles

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Boydell & Brewer, 2017 - Literary Criticism - 217 pages
Humanity is a dominant presence in the Exeter Book riddle collection. It is frequently shown using, shaping and binding the physical world in which it lives. The riddles depict master and craftsman and use the familiar human world as a point of orientation within a vast, overwhelming cosmos. But the riddles also offer an eco-centric perspective, one that considers the natural origins of man-made products and the personal plight of useful human resources.
This study offers fresh insights into the collection, investigating humanity's interaction with, and attitudes towards, the rest of the created world. Drawing on the principles of eco-criticism and eco-theology, the study considers the cultural and biblical influences on the depiction of nature in the collection, arguing that the texts engage with post-lapsarian issues of exploitation, suffering and mastery. Depictions of marginalised perspectives of sentient and non-sentient beings, such as trees, ore and oxen, are not just characteristic of the riddle genre, but are actively used to explore the point of view of the natural world and the impact humanity has on its non-human inhabitants. The author not only explores the riddles' resistance to anthropocentrism, but challenges our own tendency to read these enigmas from a human-centred perspective.

Corinne Dale gained her PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Locating NonHuman Subjects in an Anthropocentric World
31
The Groan of Travail in the Ox Riddles
57
Inverting the Colophon in Riddle 26
87
Wounding and Shaping in Riddles 53 and 73
103
The Principle of Accountability in Riddle 83
123
The Failure of Human Mastery in the Wine and Mead Riddles
145
The Limits of Wisdom in Riddle 84 and the Storm Riddles
167
Conclusion
195
Bibliography
199
Index
215
Copyright

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