Navigating Northumbria: mobility, allegory, and writing travel in Early Medieval Northumbria
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Lawson, Helen Margaret
The social fact of movement is a significant underlying feature of early medieval Northumbria, as it is for other regions and other periods. The eighth-century Anglo- Latin hagiographical tradition that centres on Bede (673-735) is not known for its articulacy concerning travel, and what is expressed might well be overlooked for its brevity. This thesis explores the relationship between allegories and symbolism, and the underlying travel-culture in prose histories and hagiographies produced in Northumbria in the early eighth century. It demonstrates the wide extent to which travel was meaningful. The range of connotations applied to movement and travel motifs demonstrate a multi-layered conceptualization of mobility, which is significant beyond the study of travel itself. In three sections, the thesis deals first with the mobility inherent in early medieval monasticism and the related concepts that influence scholarly expectations concerning this travel. The ideas of stabilitas and peregrinatio are explored in their textual contexts. Together they highlight that monastic authors were concerned with the impact of movement on discipline and order within monastic communities. However, early medieval monasticism also provided opportunities for travel and benefitted from that movement. Mobility itself could be praised as a labour for God. The second section deals with how travel was narrated. The narrative role of sea, land, and long-distance transport provide a range of stimuli for the inclusion and exclusion of travel details. Whilst figurative allegory plays its part in explaining both the presence and absence of sea travel, other, more mundane meanings are applied to land transport. Through narratives, those who were unable to travel great distances were given the opportunity to experience mobility and places outside of their homes. The third section builds on this idea of the experience of movement, teasing out areas where a textual embodiment of travel was significant, and those where the contrasting textual experience of travel is illustrative of narrative techniques and expectations. This section also looks at the hagiographical evidence for wider experiences of mobility, outside of the travel of the hagiographical subjects themselves. It demonstrates the transformation of the devotional landscape at Lindisfarne and its meaning for the social reality of movement. This wide-ranging exploration of the theme of mobility encourages the development of scholarship into movement, and into the connections between travel and other aspects of society.