Award Date

Spring 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English



Advisor 1

John C. Unrue, Committee Chair

First Committee Member

Joseph B. McCullough

Second Committee Member

Richard L. Harp

Graduate Faculty Representative

Jacimaria R. Batista

Number of Pages



This dissertation examines why Ælfric's choice of texts included in his Lives of Saints differs so radically from contemporaneous lists of saints venerated by Anglo-Saxons. Writing between 992 and 1002, while England faced a second wave of invasions from the North, Ælfric selected saints predominantly from the Orient.

A close analysis of several of these lives reveals four major agents of persecution: Paganism, Judaism, Heresy, and Satan. Faced with such trials, most of the saints included in Ælfric's Lives commonly suffer a violent death and always stand firm in their faith in the face of persecution. For Ælfric, the orthodox teacher, their example of heroic behavior could only serve to bolster his own audience confronted with many of the same dangers.

Ælfric's decision to offer such models of virtue and steadfastness to the English laity in this threatening time of physical violence and spiritual trial ultimately expresses a profound knowledge of his Church's Eastern roots and his unwavering belief in its unity and universality.


Ælfric; Heresy; Lives of saints; Middle Eastern saints; Old English; Orient; Vikings


English Language and Literature