Speaking of the dead

I will be giving a talk in Silverdale, University College Cork on Feb 24 at 3pm about Bede’s narrative of Dryhthelm’s vision. Dryhthelm (aka Drythelm, Drycthelme, or Drithelm) was an Anglo-Saxon man who lived in about AD700. And as Bede tells us: “About this time a memorable miracle occurred in Britain like those of ancient times. In order to arouse the living from spiritual death, a certain man already dead came back to life and related many memorable things that he had seen, and I think that some of them ought to be mentioned here.” (see here for the Latin: HE 5.12)

These “memorable things” included a tour of the afterlife, in which Dryhthelm visits souls undergoing purification, the mouth of hell, and the edge of heaven. My argument is that Bede includes this narrative  because it suits his desire for moral reform in Northumbria, and because the vision shows what he believes awaits the Anglo-Saxons. There’s much more to it: Gildas and Bede’s understanding of “spiritual death” are major factors, as is Bede’s Letter to Ecgbert – any paper on Bede involves chasing a paper trail untold miles long.

I can’t record the talk on the day but may record it later and embed it on the site; I don’t think I’ll be able to upload the paper itself as it deals with topics about which I’m writing an article for Marginalia.


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