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Distributed for University of Wales Press

Double Agents

Women and Clerical Culture in Anglo-Saxon England

Distributed for University of Wales Press

Double Agents

Women and Clerical Culture in Anglo-Saxon England

First published in 2001, Double Agents was the first book-length study of women in Anglo-Saxon written culture that took on the insights provided by contemporary critical and feminist theory, and it quickly established itself as a standard. Now available again, it complicates the exclusion of women from the historical record of Anglo-Saxon England by tackling the deeper questions behind how the feminine is modeled, used, and made metaphoric in Anglo-Saxon texts, even when the women themselves are absent.

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“Whether they are interrogating the scholarly narrative of Cædmon as the ‘father of English poetry,’ investigating the historical record for feminine literacy or considering the female saint’s body, both real and metaphorical, Lees and Overing apply crucial pressure to some of the most common assumptions about Anglo-Saxon culture.”

Karma Lochrie, Indiana University

Double Agents is an innovative and provocative study, adventurous in its choice of texts and stimulating in its lively and detailed engagement with them. The authors’ exploration of the complex relation of the feminine, orality and literacy will undoubtedly influence the direction of future critical enquiry.”

Stephanie Hollis, University of Auckland

Table of Contents

Series Editor’s Preface


Acknowledgements, 2001

List of Abbreviations


1        Patristic Maternity: Bede, Hild and Cultural Procreation

2        Orality, Femininity and the Disappearing Trace in Early Anglo-Saxon England

3        Literacy and Gender in Later Anglo-Saxon England

4        Figuring the Body: Gender, Performance, Hagiography

5        Pressing Hard on the ‘Breasts’ of Scripture: Metaphor and the Symbolic



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