Justin Park, a senior in the English Department, has been awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship; only 39 students nationwide received the award this year, out of 769 applicants. What follows is a brief post from Justin about his work at Berkeley and his plans for Cambridge.
I first encountered Old English poetry in a class at City College of San Francisco and was struck by the strange beauty and unexpected complexity of the words and images. After transferring to Berkeley, I took Professor O’Brien O’Keeffe’s class on Anglo-Saxon England. I was hooked. My senior honors thesis focused on the Latin and Old English hagiographies of Saint Guthlac of Crowland—a warrior who became a hermit in the fens of Crowland. Hagiography imparts authority and authenticity by representing its subject in terms of universal aspects and qualities held in common among Christian saints. Some texts directly borrow episodes from other saint’s lives, transplanting them into the narrative to show how the individual is connected to the universal ideal of sainthood. I was curious as to how a genre with such universalizing tendencies could produce such a culturally specific and local individual like Saint Guthlac. My thesis focused on how local details (geographic and topographical) were deployed within the narrative to both signify place and to subtly participate in Guthlac’s transformation into a saint. These very minor details produced the major effect of binding the universal saint to the specific place and connecting the culturally specific to the religiously universal.
I was recently awarded the Gates Cambridge scholarship. At Cambridge, in the department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, I intend to continue researching hagiography. I am interested in the representations of slaves and criminals within the hagiography of Saint Swithun at Winchester written by Lantfred, a monk originally from Fleury. My research will look at the possible connections between Lantfred’s text, Carolingian law codes and the hagiography of Saint Benedict written at Fleury. I hope to show that by redeploying these sources in an Anglo-Saxon context, Lantfred was articulating a new relationship between the saint, law and the slaves and criminals living within the community.
Posted by Jeffrey Blevins