Seminar paper from the year 2007 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: 1,0, Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald (Department for English and American Studies), course: Historical Linguistics and Medieval English Studies, language: English, abstract: Much time and ink has been spent on the study of ...
Seminar paper from the year 2007 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: 1,0, Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald (Department for English and American Studies), course: Historical Linguistics and Medieval English Studies, language: English, abstract: Much time and ink has been spent on the study of the so called Beowulf manuscript which nowadays constitutes the presumably "most discussed" (LUCAS 1990: 363) Old English manuscript. Contained in this manuscript is the apocryphal Letter of Alexander to Aristotle that will be central to this paper. The multitude of medieval manuscripts (cf. GUNDERSON 1980: 48) of the Letter leave little doubt that it certainly belongs to some of the "most successful literary impostures of the medieval ages" (RYPINS 1971: xliii). However, its Anglo-Saxon version "has excited little attention over the years" (ORCHARD 1995: 116).Scholar's interest seems to have been much more with the study of the earlier Latin form of the manuscript (RYPINS 1971: xxx): the Epistola Alexandri ad Aristotelem, which seems to derive from an older Greek version (cf. GUNDERSON 1980: 48). The version of the Letter dealt with here is a copy of an earlier (and apparently lost) Old English translation of the Latin Epistola: Thus "it is at least twice removed from the Latin" (Rypins xxxvii).
It is my purpose to show within this paper that neither the various monstrous beings (vs. SISAM 1962: 96) nor their "aggression as a particular problem for foreign rulers" (vs. POWELL 2006: 1) that are most commonly said to be the connecting theme of the 'community of manuscripts' of the Norwell Codex are the central aspects of the Letter.
Until further studies prove me wrong, we may assume that the Anglo-Saxon scribe consciously altered the Latin Epistola in a way as to ply the reader's attention to the biblical view on Alexander. He did so by opting for biblical phrasings rather than those found in the Epistola. Thus the Letter stresses that Alexander indeed is an paradigm of superbia, as ORCHARD suggests (1995: 135): an eordcyning 'earthly king',who does not accept his limits and rather than being content with his glory (cf. II Regum 14:104) provokes malum. This interpretation perfectly harmonizes with
POWELL's suggestion that "Wonders [...], the Letter [...], and Beowulf form an ideal core for a collection focused on rulership" (POWELL 2006: 15).
Beginning with a rather short introduction to the Norwell Codex and the discussion concerning its thematic unity (ch. 2) I shall focus my attention to the Christian dimension of the Letter (ch. 3). Countering SISAM (1962:88) I shall argue that the Letter indeed serves a moralizing function.