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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of martial diction and Beowulf borrowings in OE Andreas Simpkins, Linda Margaret


Today scholarly criticism of the OE poem Andreas still addresses issues raised almost a century ago. At that time, scholars first noticed that Andreas resembled the epic Beowulf not only in narrative structure, but also in verbal expression. The apparent borrowings together with Andreas overall martial tone seemed often inapposite in their context in this saint's life, suggesting to these critics that the author of Andreas was a less than competent poet. While some scholars still judge both the Beowulf presence and the martial diction in Andreas to be signs of the poet's deficiencies, other scholars argue that, as hagiography, Andreas is not subject to the constraints of mimesis, and that the martial diction and Beowulf borrowings usually have a non-literal significance. They believe that because Andreas is therefore an allegorical narrative, the charge of mimetic incoherence is itself inappropriate. A close reading of Andreas supports this contention. The poet's martial language is an apt expression of the Christian metaphor of martiality found in Eph. 6. 10-17, and implies a consistent distinction between the soldier of Christ and the soldier of Satan. In addition, purposeful allusion to Beowulf (through intentional narrative parallels as well as through verbal duplications and echoes) enriches the portrait of the two opposing comitatus and suggests that the soldier of Christ is a more worthy ideal than his secular counterpart. These observations strongly suggest that the author of Andreas was an able poet, skilfully using the resources of Anglo-Saxon literary tradition to express his Christian theme.

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