Critical Reading and Skepticism in Anglo-Saxon England

Summer 2016

Nickolas Gable : English

Mentor: Emily Thornbury

The common imagination casts Medieval Europeans as victims of an era without skepticism in which the average person accepted superstition as fact. My research looks into the Early Medieval period in England and analyzes how various kinds of readers approached, questioned, and subsequently either accepted or refuted incredible claims. By looking at textual evidence within accounts of miracle as well as items of dubious canonicity, the intent is to expose and understand the multifaceted belief system of the Medieval Christian: one which allows for degrees of truth in miracle, doctrine, and scripture. The ultimate goal is to learn when and how Anglo-Saxon readers would have engaged in critical reading. This opens the door for further study of the ways in which texts can be understood from a broader Medieval perspective, and there are also implications for literary criticism as a whole, especially regarding the epistemological origins of the reader as an entity in modern scholarship.

The opportunity to engage with a topic in such a deep way is a rare treat for an undergraduate scholar, and thanks to the Anselm Foundation, I have been given a chance to partake in the kind of scholarship normally limited to graduate students in my field. This experience will not only help me to have a competitive application for graduate school, it will also allow me to get my first taste of the kind of research that I can look forward to while pursuing my goals. This fellowship means a great deal to me, and I am extremely grateful for the chance to add to the knowledge of my field while moving closer to my goal of becoming a scholar and educator.