Memory and Identity Formation: A Cognitive Construction of the Self in ‘The Wanderer’–By Brent LaPadula

Introspection as a tool for understanding the self is one way theorists have approached the question of selfhood.[1]  And while David Hume suggests that introspection alone is untenable in discovering a certain underlying, immutable self, the process of memory can be shown to aid in understanding this concept.[2] This is especially true for the function of memory in The Wanderer (TW).[3] Hume’s argument is not a fallacy, but it is predicated on his definition of the self, which I do not find useful in this instance—i.e., that the self is unrealizable by introspection because it cannot be found in the world of the mind.  If we are to use the memory process, which is almost entirely indebted to perceptions, to understand and define the particular type of self that we find in The Wanderer, then we must make a distinction between a self that is beyond our or society’s control (soul) and that which is forged, influenced, and possibly a result of both memory and society.  For the purposes of this work, it is incumbent that we formulate a definition of the self, that we may not confuse the various terms rife throughout the discourse.

Memory and the Construction of a Personal Self/Identity 

What constitutes, whither resides, or whether or not human beings have an immutable soul somewhere has been approached by thinkers for millennia, and it is this illusive entity that many have termed ‘self’.  However, the purpose of this article is not to argue for or against the soul—this primarily because it is something that we cannot broach using methodologies for understanding human individuals or societies as a whole. That is to say, proving the existence or non-existence of such a soul by looking at literature is impossible.[4] Therefore, to benefit from a search for the self in Old-English poetry, we must recognize what it is that the literature can tell us about the deepest recesses of the human mind, and it is within this recess that abides a certain self, I argue.  Thus, I term this sense of self colloquially here as the ‘personal-self’, a definition that is akin to what we would call ‘personal-identity’.[5]  To be clear, my concept of a personal-self is that of a human personality or individual identity—in that it is informed by experiences—but it is also more than that.[6] The personal-self represents the deepest ideas of one’s concept of selfhood, which may or may not be represented to the outside world—and in most cases, it is not.[7]  When one thinks of his or her place in the world, considers their past, plans for their future, they are in a process of identity formation or personal self-amendment.  Through concentrating on the application of memory, this is exactly the kind of self that we can discover and understand in Old-English (OE) elegies like TW.[8] So how does the application of memory –i.e., the conscious or unconscious using of memory in autobiographical self-conception—help inform a personal-self.[9] David Wiggins once described a person as a member of a species for whom “reason and reflection[…]typically enables them to consider themselves as themselves the same thinking things, in different times and places”, thus, “Memory is not then irrelevant to personal identity.”[10] It is this idea of changing one’s self-concept, through the application of memory, which is most important for us here.  The idea here is simple: that memory allows us to see ourselves as the same person in the present as in our past, which sounds familiar when we recall the common adage, “my past made me who I am today”.  Irrespective of the philosophical terminology, this is how nearly all of us experience our lives.  Memory, then, requires “[a] strong conviction of the sameness of “a man’s identity over time” in order to inform a personal-self, and this identity extends “as far back as his memory reaches”.[11] From these concepts we are then led into the memory-connected theory of personal identity (MCT), which states that ‘If x is a person at t1 and y is a person at t2, then y is the same person as x iff x and y are memory-connected’.[12] On its face value, the MCT works well in enabling us to understand how people see their current personal selves the same as a past personal-self, strictly based on memory.  In TW, for instance, without this reflective attitude about the past, the first-person lament would hold no authority nor incite any sympathy in the audience, because we would not understand that the wanderer is referring back to a past personal-self, who is displaying a continuum of strong personal change throughout the poem.  It is this idea of changing one’s self-concept, through the application of memory, which is most important for us here.

Before moving into the literature, it is important to understand that the use of memory as a catalyst to incite personal change in modern people is well established. Memory helps to form the idea of individual consciousness and individual expression in our culture.  For example, Joseph Butler says that “upon comparing the consciousness of one’s self, or one’s own existence in any two moments, there as immediately arises to the mind the idea of personal identity”, and that under certain conditions, the ‘I’ twenty years ago and the ‘I’ today are “but one and the same”; however, Butler is careful to point out that even though the general concept of personal identity may remain intact, the “personality is not a permanent, but a transient thing[…that] lives and dies, begins and ends continually”.[13] From this discussion it is clear that the idea of personality is highly important.  I consider ‘personality’ to be a part of the personal-self, and as Butler suggests, it is the personality that is under the influence of a variety of societal structures that help to precipitate individual change, thereby contributing to the overall modification of personal-self.[14] A firm basis has thus been set up for understanding how, through the application of memory, modern concepts of the personal-self are both simultaneously static and malleable over a period of time.  We now must question if a sense of the personal-self in the Anglo-Saxon period could be changed by a similar process, or if the communal identity of the heroic world possessed a hold so strong on the individual, that a personal sense of self was discouraged from being expressed either outwardly or through internal monologue.

The Wanderer and Omniscient Recall       

From the opening lines of TW, we find an unnamed exile introduced by the narrator, who—even at this early stage—highlights the extreme solitude that will eventually aid in the wanderer’s formation of a new self-concept, and emphasises the dichotomy between an old and emerging self-identity:

Oft him anhaga     are gebideð,
metudes miltse,     þeah þe he modcearig
geond lagulade     longe sceolde
hreran mid hondum     hrimcealde sæ,
wadan wræclastas:     wyrd bið ful aræd.[15]1-5

[Often the solitary one waits for grace, God’s favor, even though sad at heart he has to move with his hands throughout the ocean’s path, the icy-cold sea, the path of exile: fate is unstoppable].[16]

The emphasis on loneliness is characteristic of the poem, an indicator of the typical relationship between the individual and community in the Anglo-Saxon period.[17]   For instance, De Lacy has said that “[f]rom one point of view, the anhaga can be characterized as the epitome of worldly philosophy—man without God”, and this may be true;[18] however, Anne Klinck has also pointed out that anhaga (solitary one)is glossed passer solitarius (lone sparrow) in the eleventh century Lambeth Psalter; additionally, she has remarked that anhaga may come from haga (enclosure) or hogian (to think).[19] The implication here, then, is not only that the wanderer is alone, but that he is one who “travels within or enclosed in his mind/thoughts”.  Thus, this exile exists deeply in the recesses of his mind (i.e., he is completely alone with his thoughts), and so at this stage he is a man without community, as well.[20] Similar to Paul De Lacy, Bernard Huppe has also suggested that at this point, “[i]t is clear […] that man is helpless in the grip of Fate, that he can find security only in the mercy of God”.[21] From the opening, then, it seems that God is the only refuge for an exile in this period.  However, as we move forward, we find that the process by which the exile comes to this realization is a highly personal, individual, and self-changing exercise.

The next two lines represent an interesting shift in TW and set the stage for a first-person lament that will help us to define who the wanderer is and how his self-concept will change:

Swa cwæð eardstapa,    earfeþa gemyndig,
wraþra wælsleahta,    winemæga hryre: 6-7

[So says the wanderer, mindful of hardships, cruel battle-slaughters, [and] the fall of kinsmen].

It is unclear whether the wanderer cwæð (says) lines 1-5b, the proceeding lines, or both.[22]   However this is interpreted, the suggestion is clear that the wanderer is either analyzing the truth that God is one’s only salvation (lines 1-5b), or he is about to take us into his mind and tell us his story (8-29a). In either case, the wanderer’s omniscient position suggests that he has already completed his journey and is hence relating, through memory, what has occurred.  The swa cwæð construction occurs twice in the poem (lines 6 and 111), and Rosemary Woolf has suggested that its purpose is to block off the first and last sections of Wan and not as a way to “analyse a subtle psychological continuity of thought” throughout this work.[23] I suggest, however, that a ‘continuity of thought’ is absolutely what is established between lines 6 and 111, and that, contrary to Woolf, this construction reflects this purpose.  The stage has thus been set, and for the next twenty-one lines, the psychology of the wanderer is explored and his early personal-self revealed via memory, before it is challenged and changed in the second half of the poem.

The First-Person Lament and a Communal Self-Concept

What follows in lines 8-29a demonstrates how a self-concept works through memory in TW, and how recognizing this reflection of an earlier self is imperative to understanding the change of the personal self that we will explore in later sections.  We are told, in highly emotive speech, the emptiness within the wanderer and his identification with his heroic world:

‘Oft ic sceolde ana     uhtna gehwylce
mine ceare cwiþan;    nis nu cwicra nan
þe ic him modsefan     minne durre
sweotule asecgan.    Ic to soþe wat
þæt biþ in eorle     indryhten þeaw
þæt he his ferðlocan     fæste binde,
healde his hordcofan,    hycge swa he wille’. 8-14

[Often in the early morning, I alone had to lament my sorrows; now there is not anyone living whom I dare to clearly tell my state of mind.  I know truly that it is a noble custom in a man that he binds the treasure of thoughts securely in his breast; let him think as he will].

For a second time, we are reminded of the wanderer, alone (ana) and forsaken, introspecting his companionless lot (mine ceare cwiþan).  The emphasis on the wanderer as being alone is significant, allowing us to make an obvious and necessary observation: that Anglo-Saxons (at least in the tenth-century) could access and make use of an inner world that was distinctly separate from their communities, whether by choice or necessity.[24]   And yet we find that the wanderer still tries to adhere to the cultural ethos of his time, its hold still a powerful force over him, as it is the custom for him to his ferðlocan  /  fæste binde, healde his hordcofan.  Other scholars, such as S.L. Clark and Julian Wasserman have noted the obvious contradiction here of the wanderer to hold steady the custom of stoic reticence while inviting the audience into the deepest recesses of his heart.  Indeed, the wanderer not only keep[s] himself closed off in order to prevent what is outside from penetrating inside to the depths of his heart, but he is involved in an even more desperate struggle to keep what is already inside his heart (sorrow weariness, doubt) from escaping or being expressed to the outside world, and thus contradicting the heroic exterior which he tries to maintain.[25]

Similarly, Robert Bjork notes that “The wanderer thus once again abides by the dictates of his culture as he makes his actions conform to the demands of the situation”.[26] But does the wanderer conform?[27] Is he successful at holding back his feelings?  The wanderer is absolutely unsuccessful at both, and that we the audience come to know his heart confirms this.  Thomas Hill has likewise picked up on this failed attempt to conform to societal norms, and says that “the Wanderer is anything but stoic in his passionate lament for his lost lord and friends”.[28] That the wanderer reflects upon, and goes against the cultural milieu of his time by sharing his feeling, suggests a tension between two realities for him—one based on early communal identity, and another on independent, personal lament.  There is being established, even at this early stage in the poem, a tension between an old and new self.  On the one hand, the wanderer reflects upon how he is to act according to a heroic code that fosters a cultural-self, and on the other, he is beginning to learn that he can break free from this restriction and enter more deeply into an introspective state of reflection and change.  Analysis of the following ten lines will show that the wanderer could, by introspection, change his idea of self.

The next several lines continue the solitary and emotive themes in the first-person that we saw in lines 8-14, but with the wanderer’s reason for exile explained and his inner struggle further explored:

‘Swa ic modsefan     minne sceolde
oft earmcearig,    eðle bidæled,
freomægum feor     feterum sælan,
siþþan geara iu     goldwine minne
hrusan heolstre biwrah     ond ic hean þonan
wod wintercearig     ofer waþema gebind,
sohte seledreorig     sinces bryttan
hwær ic feor oþþe neah      findan meahte
þone þe in meoduhealle     mine wisse,
oþþe mec freondleasne     frefran wolde,
weman mid wynnum’. 19-29a

[So often I —separated from my homeland, far from kinsmen—had to bind my sorrowful state of mind with fetters, since long ago the darkness of Earth covered my gold-lord and I, thence wretched, traversed as sorrowful as winter over the freezing waves—sad over the loss of a hall—sought a giver of treasure, whether I far or near could find him who in the mead-hall would know me, or was willing to console friendless me, entice (me) with pleasures].

Here we are told that the wanderer was thrown into a situation where he had to look for another lord, because his goldwine (gold-lord) of days past is dead and buried.  However, the use of siþþan presents us with a question that correlates with the discussion above on stoic reticence.  It is initially unclear if the wanderer had to bind his anxieties because his lord has died (siþþan used as a conjunction), or whether siþþan is simply referring to a moment in time (e.g., used adverbially, as in ‘afterwards’).   The wanderer has already mentioned the noble quality that is holding one’s thoughts bound to his heart, and we have discussed how this attempt “is shown to be far from successful”.[29] Hence, the wanderer is describing how his initial thoughts of loss and depression came about because his lord had died, and this naturally led to his attempt to suppress his feelings, as the “heroic code encourages such restraint as a counterbalance to the mind’s frailty”.[30] However rigid the wanderer believed he should remain in this attempt, he has failed.  Again, we should take note of this discrepancy between the old and the new—that is, the wanderer’s heroic value system circumvented by a nearly unrestrained emotional process that consumes his thoughts.  Thus, while the wanderer reveals his past heroic ties with a lord and an abstemious mind, his actions showcase a new present, as the wanderer is at odds with himself while struggling to understand the development of a new self-identity from a communal self-concept to something entirely different.

The Wanderer’s Multiple Personality and Dream Recall

We find a dramatic shift in perspective in lines 29b-57b, where the first-person lament gives way to the introduction of a hypothetical wanderer/exile, who knows the pains of such a life and describes in detail the anxieties suffered by one whom is separated from his community:

‘Wat se þe cunnað
hu sliþen bið      sorg to geferan
þam þe him lyt hafað      leofra geholena.
Warað hine wræclast,    nalæs wunden gold,
ferðloca freorig,    nalæs foldan blæd;
gemon he selesecgas     ond sincð ege,
hu hine on geoguðe     his goldwine
wenede to wiste:    wyn eal gedreas.
Forþon wat se þe sceal     his winedryhtnes
leofes larcwidum     longe forþolian’ 29b-38

[He who experiences it knows how cruel sorrow is as a companion to him who has few dear confidants.  The path of exile holds him, not twisted gold, a frozen heart, not earth’s glory; he remembers men of the hall and receiving of treasure, how in his youth his gold-lord accustomed to feast—all joy has perished.  He knows [these sorrows], therefore, who must do without his dear lord’s teachings for a long time].

While it may appear that this exile is different from the wanderer himself, as we proceed with our thesis that the wanderer’s past self-concept is changing as the poem continues, it becomes clearer that the introduction of this exile represents the manifestation—via memory—of an earlier persona of the wanderer.  As mentioned earlier, the wanderer is an omniscient narrator, and the power of the numerous memories throughout TW lies in the fact that the speaker has already disassociated himself from his communal identity and embraced a new personal self.  This passage clearly illustrates the wanderer’s disassociation, as there is a change of the personal pronouns from the first to the third person.  Some scholars have identified this as a retreat into the cerebral, as S.L. Clark and Julian Wasserman suggest that the remembrance of a goldwine (gold-lord) here “is tantamount to a retreat into the confines of his [the wanderer’s] deeper self”.[31]

This ‘deeper self’, or perhaps the imaginative faculty within the mind of the wanderer, is at once saddened by and separated from, the earlier memories of the communal identity.  Here, the wanderer tells us that without companions, exile and a frozen heart take the place of the joys of a gold ring, thus detailing how his earlier self is tormented by this loss.[32],[33] This choice of memory is proven all the more important when we realize that ‘memory is not just a self-contained cognitive task but that “ ‘central knowledge structures relating to the self have been employed in representing the memory’ “; that is, a person’s “growing sense of self and conception of how he or she fits into various relationships is an important factor in the way that events are remembered”.[34] Thus, by remembering the importance of the hall, the lord-thane relationship, and the comforts of community, the wanderer is telling us that his identity was inextricably linked with these societal functions, a way-of-life that has completely informed his identity until now.  We may then quite reasonably not only associate Anglo-Saxon community here as the most important aspect of identity for the wanderer, but that it was “an analogue of inference—a state transition statistically favorable to the organism” (this analogue is represented by the community that he was forced away from).[35] Hence, he needed to adapt to a new situation in order to survive.

If the preceding section still leaves doubt regarding the power and application of the wanderer’s memory to recall an earlier self-concept while simultaneously introducing a new and emerging personal identity, the dream and imagination sequences that follow will put those concerns to rest.  In lines 39-48, emphasis is yet again put on the new via the old, and the application of memory in establishing this dichotomy the spearhead by which it is revealed:

‘Ðonne sorg ond slæp     somod ætgædre
earmne anhogan     oft gebindað,
þinceð him on mode     þæt he his mondryhten
clyppe ond cysse     ond on cneo lecge
honda ond heafod,    swa he hwilum ær
in geardagum     giefstolas breac.
Ðonne onwæcneð   eft     wineleas guma,
gesihð   him biforan     fealwe wegas,
baþian brimfuglas,    brædan feþra,
hreosan hrim ond snaw     hagle gemenged’. 39-48

[When sorrow and sleep simultaneously together often bind the wretched solitary thinker, it seems to him that he embraces and kisses his lord of men and lays hands and head on his knee, as he did in days before when he enjoyed the gift throne.  Then the friendless man awakes again, sees dark waves in front of him, sea-birds bathing, spreading their wings, falling frost and snow mixed with hail].[36]

Herein lies the most explicit reference to memory in TW, while continuing the themes set out above of recall and self-identification.  This memory is made all the more powerful by its specificity (þæt he his mondryhten clyppe ond cysse     ond on cneo lecge honda ond heafod).  In the whole of TW, this is the only memory that could be considered episodic—but we also must not discount the possibility that such an event was a common and well-known trope during this time.[37]   Regardless, it has been scientifically shown of memory recall, if not known intuitively by most of us, that “[n]ot all aspects of an experience are remembered equally well”, and that “the memory of things that are central to the episode[…]appear to be remembered better than more peripheral or more subtle details”.[38]  Therefore, the generic quality of the memories in TW may in fact not only inform our understanding of who the poet is, and whether or not he and the wanderer are one-and-the-same, but it may also show a disassociation from these memories by the wanderer himself, by his lack of specifics, as the general nature of the recollected memory could tell us that the wanderer considers these events as unimportant to his current self-identity.[39] If this is true, it only strengthens the notion that the wanderer goes through a process of changing his idea of himself, while emerging on the other end of the process an objective witness.

Here again The wanderer is relating to an earlier self-concept by way of memory (þinceð him on mode), juxtaposed against an inchoate identity that is thrust upon us from the dream state. The wanderer awakes only to sea-birds, dark waves, and hail-laden cold.  This dichotomy of old and new is striking, and that sea-birds immediately occupy his sight upon awaking from a dream where he had just enjoyed the company of his lord, suggests that the animals in the natural world are now surrogates for his kinsmen.  If this is true, then strengthening our theme of an old and new identity is the wanderer’s memory of the lord-thane relationship (his early personal-self), while his awakening represents the emergence of a new self-concept, who still yearns for, but is beginning to realize is unable to ever again grasp, life in the mead-hall.  Antonina Harbus has commented on this dream sequence, and says that “In the Christian tradition[…]sleep is a metaphor for ignorance, death, or spiritual torpor”.[40] Reading the dream as a metaphor for the death of the old self may be overzealous at this stage, but in the remaining lines leading up to the major shift in the second half of the poem, such a reading certainly seems possible, and perhaps even likely.

Following up on his feelings upon awaking, the wanderer reflects on how the memory of kinsfolk provides nothing but pain in his new reality:

‘Þonne beoð þy hefigran     heortan benne,
sare æfter swæsne;    sorg bið  geniwad
þonne maga gemynd     mod geondhweorfeð
greteð gliwstafum,    georne geondsceawað–
secga geseldan     swimmað  eft onweg,
fleotendra ferð     no þær fela bringeð 
cuðra cwidegiedda;    cearo bið  geniwad
þam þe sendan sceal     swiþe geneahhe
ofer waþema gebind     werigne sefan’. 49-57.

[Then because of [the loss of] dear ones, the heart’s painful wounds are heavier; sorrow is renewed when the memory of kinsmen moves through the heart: he greets them joyfully, eagerly watches them—the hall companions drift away again; the floating troops do not bring many well-known speeches there; sorrow is renewed to him who must very often send his weary spirit over the freezing waves].

In contrast to the joys that the memory of kinsmen brought the wanderer in earlier passages, the recollection of his lord and community are now only a source of pain, as he reminds us that sorg bið geniwad (sorrow is renewed)when maga gemynd mod geondhwearfeð (the mind passes through/recalls the memory of kinsmen).[41] swimmað eft onweg (swim away again)from his memory.[42]source [sic]of sorrow”, and I would argue that with slight amendment (not the mind itself, but rather that which is brought to mind) this analysis is absolutely correct.[43],[44]TW, that through the application of memory, the “[wanderer’s] identity presupposes an uninterrupted continuance of existence”, a continuance that is itself shown by the recollection of his earlier memories.[45]

The Wanderer’s Questioning and a Redefinition of Self

In the preceding section, we explored the ways in which the first half of TW emphasizes the dichotomy between the wanderer’s past and emerging personal identity, with the neutral emphasis on both beginning to show signs of strain in favor of the new self-concept in lines 49-57. This process is fully realized at line 58, as the wanderer—in the first person again—starts to truly question the purpose of grasping onto an identity that is no longer tenable:

‘Forþon ic geþencan ne mæg     geond þas woruld
forhwan modsefa min     ne gesweorce
Þonne ic eorla lif     eal geondþence,
hu hi færlice     flet ofgeafon,
modge maguþegnas.    Swa þes middangeard
ealra dogra gehwam     dreoseþ ond fealleþ’. 58-63

[Therefore, I cannot think why in this world my mind does not grow dark when I think of warrior’s lives, how they suddenly left the hall, spirited noble kinsmen.  So the whole middle-earth declines and falls each day].

Forþon (therefore) bridges all of the previous discussion, explaining why the memory of the wanderer’s community is now only a source of a dark mind, a misery that cannot bring solace to the exile.  The act of remembering kinsmen has produced a freedom within the wanderer’s mind, an introspection that has given him the tools necessary to promote a change in viewpoint.  The comparison with men to the eventual destruction of the natural world (Swa þes middangeard…dreoseþ ond fealleþ) displays the power of this introspection, as the wanderer is no longer associating his past communal identity with permanence or joy, but with a cold epiphany explains that the world of men cannot last, and by extension, the heroic identity he once enjoyed likewise cannot forever remain.  In this way, a reading of a two-part structure in TW is well-founded, in that the “poem is a reflection of the wanderer’s [sic] mental states” over time, where “references to the past[…]illustrate the Wanderer’s [sic] progress in trying to reconcile himself to his present state as he moved from an attempt to recapture his past to an attempt to explain his loss”.[46] Similarly, Selzer says that:

It is clear, then, that the loss of the speaker’s lord and the speaker’s terrible wanderings both took place in the past and that he is recovering those experiences through memory[…]the speaker in his meditation is remembering an earlier self who wandered in search of his lord.[47]

Not only is the wanderer remembering an earlier self in search for a new sinces bryttan (treasure-giver), but he is remembering the typology of a self who was attached to that life.  At this juncture, then, this ‘earlier self’ has faded and given way to a new identity that—as we have read—associates the world and its inhabitants with impermanence and anxiety, themes that are continued for the next forty-seven lines with even more intensity and lucid description.

Lines 64-88 highlight the wanderer’s continuing reflection of worldly transience, while also implying the importance of memory through the recollection of heroic experience:

‘Forþon ne mæg wearþan      wis wer ær he age
wintra dæl in woruldrice.    Wita sceal geþyldig;
ne sceal no to hatheort,    ne to hrædwyrde,
ne to wac wiga,    ne to wanhydig,
ne to forht, ne to fægen,    ne to feohgifre,
ne næfre gielpes to georn,    ær he geare cunne.
Beorn sceal gebidan    þonne he beot spriceð
oþþæt collenferð      cunne gearwe
hwider hreþra gehygd     hweorfan wille.
Ongietan sceal gleaw hæle     hu gæstlic bið 
þonne ealle þisse worulde wela     weste stondeð,
swa nu missenlice     geond þisne middangeard
winde biwaune     weallas stondað,
hrime bihrorene.    Hryðge þa ederas;
woriað þa winsalo.    Waldend licgað   
dreame bidrorene;    duguð eal gecrong,
wlonc bi wealle.    Sume wig fornom,
ferede in forðwege;    sumne fugel oþbær
ofer heanne holm;    sumne se hara wulf
deaðe gedælde;    sumne dreorighleor
in eorðscræfe     eorl gehydde.
Yþde swa þisne eardgeard     ælda scyppend,
oþþæt burgwara     breahtma lease
eald enta geweorc     idlu stodon’.  64-88

[Therefore, a man cannot become wise before he has lived many winters in the worldly kingdom.  A wise man must be patient, not too angry, nor too hasty of speech, nor too weak in combat, nor too careless, nor too fearful, nor too joyful, nor too eager for wealth, nor ever eager of praise before he sufficiently understands.  A wise man must understand how eerie it is when all this world’s wealth stands ruined, as now randomly throughout this middle-earth, walls stand, wind-blown, covered with hoarfrost.  Snow-swept are the homes; wine-halls are crumbling; rulers lie dead, deprived of joy; the whole proud noble band, fell in battle, decayed beside the wall.  Some battle took and carried away; a bird carried one off over the deep sea; one the gray wolf dispensed death to; one a sad-faced warrior hid in a cave.  Thus, the creator of men devastated this world, until lacking the sounds of town-dwellers, the old works of giants stood empty].

There is an association here with old age and wisdom (wintra dæl/wis wer), to be sure; however, we find a subtle reminder that it is through the application of memory—not simply old age—that one becomes wise.  For instance, the wanderer tells us that one cannot attain wisdom ær he age wintra dæl in woruldrice, and that this wis wer must be moderate in all the categories of life until he geare cunne (can know well/entirely/sufficiently).  What one is to know is answered in the line following, in which the wanderer states that a wise man must understand that the constructions of men are ultimately ruined by time, that kings will lie dead, and that warriors will often fall in battle.  Thus, the theme of impermanence that we discussed for lines 58-63 continues here and contributes to what it is that the wise man should know, but now additionally we find an emphasis on the process of memory as a catalyst for understanding that attaching oneself to an old identity is futile in the face of inexorable change.  In other words, the wise man here is represented by an old man who has had the wisdom to use his memory in order to realize the transience of the heroic world.  For if the wanderer were not able to use his memory in this way, then he would exist in a sort of limbo, where his former identity would remain, albeit un-nurtured by the community from which it was born.  Pope also comments on how the second half of TW highlights this dichotomy of past and present, with an emphasis on the present: “it becomes evident that the entire speech of the thinker is at one and the same time a lament and an antidote against the sort of misery that had long engulfed the wanderer”.[48] The so-called ‘antidote’ is revealed at the end of TW, but part of that remedy is certainly the application of memory in the formation of a new self-identity.  At this stage, then, it would be appropriate to suggest that solitude, introspection, and memory are all medicines that the wanderer uses to realize a new personal-self.

The application of memory as synonymous with ‘wise’ is continued, as the wanderer re-introduces the hypothetical exile who would contemplate these things:

‘Se þonne þisne wealsteal     wise geþohte  
ond þis deorce life     deope geondþenceð,
frod in ferðe,    feor oft gemon,
wælsleahta worn,    ond þas word acwið’:89-91.

[Then he, with wise thought, deeply ponders this foundation and this dark life, wise in intellect often remembers a multitude of slaughters and says these words:]

Similar to the previous section, but now explicitly stated, the hypothetical exile refers to the thought process of remembering lost kinsmen as wise geþohte; that is, not only is he wise who thinks of the transience of the world, but the process of introspective memory is itself wise, as it is the mechanism by which one uses contemplation to change a certain viewpoint.  Indeed, Woolf points out that “the description of the Wanderer’s former life in his lord’s hall makes clear that he has to learn detachment from that life[…]because it is inevitable that everything that is loved on earth[…]must be lost”.[49] Similarly, Hait states of the second half of TW: “no longer does he [wanderer] accumulate [emotions], but now he pours out his lament, empties himself of his thoughts”; “thus the first and second half of the poem represent ‘fullness’ and ‘emptiness’, respectively as “The Wanderer [sic] throughout the poem laments his involuntary exile and at the end of the poem focuses on the present moment with respect to his memories of the past”.[50] This reflection, combined with what we learned of wisdom from old age suggests that “the cognitive processes shaping self-concept during this period [after a man has reached ‘middle-age’] are quite similar to those of young adulthood” in that some events may “trigger a major self-reassessment”.[51] The salience of this study reveals that the Anglo-Saxons appear to have been able to ‘reassess’ their identities into middle-age (as we do today) based on life-changing events, or in this case, both the event of exile and the realizations via memory of the transience of life.  Thus, the wanderer represents this reassessment here, as he asks rhetorical questions in the ubi sunt construction:[52]

Hwær cwom mearg?    Hwær cwom mago?
Hwær cwom           maþþumgyfa?
Hwær cwom symbla gesetu?    Hwær sindon seledreamas?
Eala beorht bune!    Eala byrnwiga!
Eala þeodnes þrym! 92-95a

[Where did the horse go?  Where went the kinsmen?  Where did the treasure-giver go?  Where went the feast seats?  Where are the hall-joys.  Oh, bright cup!  Oh, mail warrior!  Oh, ruler’s glory!]

The realization of the transience of the world has now come full circle, as the wanderer concedes that under a fate uncontrollable by men, all relationships are bound to end, all treasure is an illusory pleasure, and the entirety of heroic society is but a small ship in the storm of destiny:[53]

Eall is earfoðlic     eorþan rice;
onwendeð wyrda gesceaft     weoruld under heofonum.
Her bið feoh læne,    her bið freond læne.
Her bið mon læne,    her bið mæg læne.
Eal þis eorþan gesteal     idel weorþeð 106-110

[Everything in Earth’s kingdom is full of hardship; destiny causes change in the world under the Heavens.  Here treasure is transitory, a friend is transitory, man is transitory, a kinsman is transitory.  The whole foundation of Earth becomes empty].

The preceding lines have shown us that the wanderer’s process of disassociating himself from his earlier identity has now nearly finalized, for he knows that he will never again find another lord to claim fealty, nor will he ever see heroic society as the only source of identity for him because of his new knowledge.  It seems that at this stage, the wanderer is truly without a self or personal-identity, for his earlier personal-self has been destroyed by the act of introspection and memory, giving credence to the idea that

Narrative is born out of such tension [referring to different ‘versions’, or periods of the self] in that narrative activity seeks to bridge a self that felt and acted in the past, a self that acts in the present, and an anticipated or hypothetical self that is projected to feel and act in some as yet unrealized moment.[54] However, the wanderer has yet to discover a source of respite for his new understanding—he is, in effect, a man without a road forward or a ‘projected’, ‘hypothetical self’.

If the previous sections show a conspicuous lack of closure for how the wanderer can identify with his new self-concept, the final five lines offer this consolation:

Swa cwæð snottor on mode;    gesæt him sundor æt rune.
Til bið se þe his treowe gehealdeþ;    ne sceal næfre his torn to rycene
beorn of his breostum acyþan,    nemþe he ær þa bote cunne,
eorl mid elne gefremman.    Wel bið þam þe him are seceð,
forfre to fæder on heofonum,    þær us eal seo fæstnung stondeð. 111-115

[Thus spoke the wise man in his mind, as he sat himself apart in thought. “Good is it for him who keeps his faith; he must never reveal the resentment from his heart too quickly, unless the man beforehand knows how to bring about the remedy with zeal.  It is good for him who himself seeks grace, consolation from the father in Heaven, where all security lies for us”].

Here again we find the swa cwæð construction reintroducing us to the man who was at first an eardstapa (wanderer), but has now changed to a man snottor on mode (wise in mind).  Based on this construction, it seems clear that everything from lines 8-110 represents the inner dialogue in the mind of the wanderer, and that lines 1-8 and 111-115 are from a narrator, who has knowledge of this wanderer.  From what has been discussed, such a reading is quite plausible.  The body of the poem after line 8 shows a steady progression of thought, and that the wanderer was in the process of learning to uncover a new identity by necessity—an identity that was once based on the communal, but has since moved on to the personal, the individual.  Pope notes that when the wanderer “sat apart [he was] communing with himself”, and that this “suggests that he would normally have been expected to be communing with others”.[55] Hence, that such an emphasis is placed on words like anhaga (solitary one), ana (alone), and sundor (apart, separately) throughout TW, we may conclude that a distinction is being made consciously between the communal and the individual.  Why mention it, otherwise?  De Lacy claims that by the end of the poem, the wanderer has not “gained anything by this insight [that is, sitting alone in thought]”.[56] But has the wanderer not realized that the world is transitory, that mead-halls and companionship cannot bring everlasting joy, and that all worldly possessions cannot bring happiness?  And has the wanderer not gained peace from fæder on heofonum (the father in heaven) as a solution to the happiness he once found in society?  It is manifestly apparent, then, that the wanderer has not only learned to sit alone, but has also found a permanent joy that cannot be taken away by time, wars, or the elements, and in this way has discovered a new self-concept that has moved away from the communal and into the personal.

Concluding Remarks: Memory and the Defining of a New Self-Concept 

TW is a poem about personal change, a self-metamorphosis spearheaded by the wanderer’s memory.  Saint Augustine famously said that ‘Et est quidam imago trinitatis, ipsa mens (and there is a certain image of the trinity—the mind itself), a mind that “is endowed with a natural capacity for remembering, understanding, and willing of itself; and when these powers are rightly directed, the self will be recognized in its true order of being in relation to God”.[57] The wanderer has discovered this self—a self that is not only powerful in its own right, but is also deeply connected with its relationship with God.  Strengthening this idea, Doubleday suggests a three-part structure to TW that highlights a progression of change in the mind of the wanderer, culminating in a new identity.[58] Similarly, Selzer has found an equivalent tripartite structure, which can be found in some religious lyrics of the seventeenth century, a structure that shows first, a “concrete, vivid, dramatic subject for meditation [which] is presented to the mind by the memory, while next, an understanding is applied to the remembered subject so that gradually the mediator’s soul is lifted up to God”, and finally, the “aroused will lift to address the divine”.[59] Thus, the application of memory as a way of analyzing one’s place in the world and redefining a self-concept in TW is apparent.  The wanderer has used his memory to present himself with the old, so that he could come to disregard it.  He does this by thinking of his past in a state of reflection, slowly arriving at his current state-of-being.  Doubleday considers this idea ‘a consolation, for its pattern is from misery to hope’,[60] while I am more inclined to say it is more akin to ‘past personal-self’ to ‘new personal-self’.

That TW is a poem about the inner workings of the mind is well founded on past scholarship.  Antonina Harbus has said that it “concentrates on the workings of the mind”; Godden claims that it “takes its meaning from a disjunction between the mind, the faculty of thought and emotion, and the self, the controlling seat of consciousness”;[61] Rosier argues that “it is intrinsically a mirror of a mind in its several states and faculties, of memory and revery [sic], of reason and imagination, of perception and conception”,[62] and Bjork remarks that “the poem has to do with the mind or processes of the mind”.[63] Indeed, this we have seen throughout the poem, where lines 8-57b represent the application of memory to bring to mind the remembrance of a past self-concept that was entirely indebted to a communal personal identity, lines 58-110b describe the process by which the wanderer further employs the faculty of memory to recognize truths about the impermanence of communal life, and finally, following line 110, we discover what the wanderer has understood from his introspection that one is able to redefine their identity if they are able to find something to replace the function that community once played in their lives—and in this instance, it is God.[64], [65] Thus, the wanderer’s process of redefining his self-concept tells us that at least in some cases, Anglo-Saxons (as we do in the modern world) regarded themselves on a continuum of thought, a stream of consciousness that was highly informed by past experiences, and that they could employ the very personal nature of memory to inspect, discover, and ultimately change their self-association by a cognitive reconstruction of the self.

Brent R. LaPadula is currently working on a PhD in English at the University of Nottingham. His current interests and project focus investigates the idea of personal-self and individuality in Old English literature. He is particularly interested in researching this area using modern methodologies in the humanities and social sciences.

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Memory and Identity Formation: A Cognitive Construction of the Self in ‘The Wanderer’ by Brent LaPadula is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

[1] Some of the most groundbreaking research on the Anglo-Saxon mind has been done by Antonina Harbus and Leslie Lockett. A good start to begin looking at this research continues to be in Antonina Harbus, ‘The Medieval Concept of the Self in Anglo-Saxon England’ Self and Identity 1:1 (2002), 77-97, Cognitive Approaches to Old English Poetry (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2012), and Leslie Lockett, Anglo-Saxon Psychologies in the Vernacular and Latin Traditions. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011).  See also Simon Kemp, Cognitive Psychology in the Middle Ages. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1996) for additional studies on the Anglo-Saxon self using a modern approach.

[2] David Hume is opposed to the proposition that introspection alone allows one to find the self, because, as he famously said, “When I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other […]I never catch myself at any time without a perception and never can observe anything but the perception”  Thus, the perceptions—or thought that Hume spoke of—prevents one from accessing an understanding or knowledge of an inner self.  See H.P. Grice, ‘Personal Identity’, in Personal Identity, ed. by John Perry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), pp. 73-95, p. 79

[3] It would seem that Hume’s self is more like what many would call the soul, higher self, etc., for he states that perceptions ‘block’—as it were—the true realization of an inner self.  Hence, aversion to perceptions is indeed understandable if one is to look for such an entity—and of course, Eastern philosophies are thronged with the idea that calming perceptions (thoughts) is a primary way in meditation to discover one’s true essence (self, soul, God, etc.)  However, my argument throughout this chapter regarding the definition of the self is quite different than Hume’s, as I am not arguing for an immutable or soul-like self here, but something that changes and can be changed over time.  See below for discussion.

[4] For instance, Stroud is just one of many philosophers who do not believe that there exists an “invariable and uninterrupted entity that is the self or mind”.  See Barry Stroud, Hume (Abingdon: Routledge, 1977), p. 121.

[5] The idea of an autonomous, introspective self that is important in its own right, regardless of its role in wider society.

[6] ‘Personal-self’ is certainly not a new term, as it is used throughout the discourse in the social sciences and humanities.  I am here only outlining my usage of the term, a term that does not benefit from a strict consensus in academia.

[7] For some commentary on similar notions of the self, see Galen Strawson, The Sense of the Self’, in From Soul to Self, ed. by M. James C. Crabbe (London: Routledge, 1999), pp. 126-152, p. 131.

[8] The ‘application of memory’ refers to the process of actively considering one’s own past, either internally or thorough another medium (like poetry).

[9]  In other words, remembering one’s past to piece together or formulate an understanding of oneself.

[10] David Wiggins, ‘Locke, Butler and the Stream of Consciousness: And Men as a Natural Kind’, in The Identities of Persons, ed. by Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), pp. 139-173), p. 168.

[11] This quote comes from Thomas Reid.  See John Sutton, Philosophy and Memory Traces (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 272.

[12] X=person 1, y=person 2, t=time, and iff= ‘if and only if’.  There are debates on this theory within the literature.  For instance, there are some issues in the case of amnesiacs.  That these individuals can have semantic memory without episodic recall poses a problem for MCT. For the purposes of our discussion, these arguments do not matter, because on a basic and intuitive level, if no exceptions are taken into consideration, it is an obvious statement that if x has a memory and can remember that memory, then he or she will naturally feel that both memories belong to the same person.  This is how almost all human beings see themselves as having the same identity over time, so here I am taking into account how people actually work and not the deeper philosophical issues that cannot be criticized using the poetry.  See John W. Carroll and Ned Markosian, An Introduction to Metaphysics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 118.  A similar notion can be found in Carl Jung’s work, although he terms it ‘individuation’, which he says is ‘a process of differentiation[…]having for its goal the development of the individual personality’.  See C Jung, Psychological Types. trans. H Baynes (London: Routledge, 1989), p. 448.  Also, Hume also spoke of individuation, claiming that it was ‘nothing but the invariableness and uninterruptedness of any object, thro’ a suppos’d variation of time, by which the mind can trace it in the different periods of its existence, without any break of the view, and without being oblig’d to form the idea of multiplicity or number’.  Thus, memory allows for the idea of the personal self to remain intact.  See Davie Hume, ‘Our Idea of Identity’, in Personal Identity, ed. by John Perry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), pp. 159-160, p. 160.

[13] Butler is critical of the MCT of identity, saying that consciousness cannot be the same in any two moments.  In this instance, the deep philosophical debate does more to hinder than develop our thesis that we may recognize our past identity with our current personal self, while also changing our notion of self-concept through time.  Taken to the extreme, one could argue that Butler’s idea would allow one to claim no responsibility for one’s past action, which obviously is not how laws in today’s society, or that of the Anglo-Saxons, worked.  What is important is how society functions, not how deeply we can take an argument, for this study.  See Joseph Butler, ‘Of Personal Identity’, in Personal Identity, ed. by John Perry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), pp. 99-105, p. 99.

[14]  Wiggins similarly states that ‘the memory condition informs and regulates the continuity condition of personal identity, holds it apart from mere continuity of material body, and leaves its distinctive mark on judgments founded in it’.  So, memory is here seen as a prime cause for a person’s identity over time; i.e., memory can help form and shape (change) a person’s personal identity.  See Wiggins, ‘Locke’, p. 152.

[15] Henceforth, all Old English is taken from ‘The Wanderer’, in The Old English Elegies: A Critical Edition and Genre Study, ed. by Anne L. Klinck (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1992), p. 75.

[16] Unless otherwise stated, all modern-English translations are my own.

[17]  E.g., the importance and power of community over the individual is a theme in nearly all Old-English verse, from heroic poetry to the other elegies in the Exeter Book.

[18]  De Lacy is referring to a primary theme in Wanderer that is certainly up for debate—i.e., how much this work indebted to Christian themes.  I briefly address this argument, and how it potentially plays a part in the formation of a new identity in footnotes 57 and 63 below.  See Paul De Lacy, ‘Thematic and Structural Affinities: The Wanderer and Ecclesiastes’, Neophilologus, 82 (1998), 125-137 (p. 127).

[19] Klinck, p. 106.

[20] The salience of this rests on the fact that community was one’s main source—if not the only source—of identity/selfhood in this period.  This notion is what is precisely under scrutiny in this work.  See below for a full discussion.

[21] Roger Fowler, ‘A Theme in The Wanderer’, Medium Ævum, 36 (1967), 1-14 (p. 4).

[22] I feel that this construction introduces what is to come—i.e., the wanderer is about to relate his story to the audience—and that lines 1-5b reflect the state-of-mind the wanderer eventually enters.  Thus, the end goal is given first, and the process by which one arrives there comes after.  The power of this is that the audience already knows the outcome before the final lines are read; therefore, the rest of the poem acts as a didactic, instructive device.

[23]  Rosemary Woolf, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, and the Genre of Planctus, in Anglo-Saxon Poetry: Essays in Appreciation for John C. McGalliard, ed. by Lewis E. Nicholson and Dolores Warwick Frese (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975), pp. 192-207 (p. 207).

[24] The precise nature of this ‘inner world’ is explained below, as we will discover that the wanderer’s introspection has him question the community that he held so closely to his sense of self.

[25]  S.L. Clark and Julian N. Wasserman, ‘The Imagery of “The Wanderer’, Neophilologus, 63 (1979), 291-296 (p. 292).

[26]  Robert E. Bjork, Sundor æt Rune: The Voluntary Exile of the Wanderer’, Neophilologus, 73 (1989), 119-129 (p. 121).

[27] The wanderer’s attempt to ‘bind the treasure of thoughts securely in his breast’ highlights this early attempt to conform to the heroic ideal of stoic reticence and is in direct contradiction to the sharing of deep emotional pain that we begin to read early on. It is important to remember that every Anglo-Saxon’s sense of self was deeply inbedded within a social framework.  Indeed “every member of Anglo-Saxon culture was measured by his or her social bonds within the kinship networks of the community”.  This means that by being removed from this network ipso facto caused a shift in self identification, upsetting the delicate framework of kinship and community that defined the wanderer’s self-identity.  For further, see  Marilynn Desmond, “The Voice of Exile: Feminist Literary History and the Anonymous Anglo-Saxon Elegy”. Critical Inquiry 16, no. 3 (1990), p. 584.

[28]  Hill is referring to lines 19-29, especially and notes that in Icelandic family sagas, the poets enjoyed a freedom to express such thoughts and emotions with the audience, and thus, ‘We may therefore imagine that poetry itself is a kind of privileged medium in which warriors can lament openly without demeaning their masculine dignity’. Thomas D. Hill, ‘A Stoic Maxim in “The Wanderer” and Its Contexts’, Studies in Philology, 101 (2004), 233-249 (p. 249).

[29]  Susan Irvine, ‘Speaking One’s Mind in The Wanderer’, in Inside Old English: Essays in Honour of Bruce Mitchell, ed. by John Walmsley (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), pp. 117-33 (p. 123).

[30] Ibid.

[31] Clark and Wasserman, p. 293.

[32] A simple yet powerful phrase that includes association with a lord, communion with warriors, and a place within society.

[33] The wanderer’s refusal, at first, to put aside the emotions he feels for a communal identity speaks to the idea that an individual’s ‘sense of action ultimately depends upon one’s embeddedness within a particular sociocultural milieu’, an idea cited by Rosaldo in her discussion on how communal identity is as complex as it is illusive.  Also see Michelle Z. Rosaldo, ‘Toward an Anthropology of Self and Feeling’, in Culture Theory: Essays on Mind, Self, and Emotion, ed. by Richard A. Shweder and Robert A. LeVine (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 137-157 (pp. 139-140).

[34] Here, Gillett is referring to a child’s sense of self-concept and how what he/she remembers is directly related to the ways in which their associations within their communities are structured.  I have included ‘person’ here, because it is clear that no matter the age, one’s memory still functions in this way.  See Grant Gillett, The Mind and its Discontents: An Essay in Discursive Psychiatry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 335.

[35] This complex idea that Burge relates to ‘lesser’ animals can also apply to humans and is simplified if we call the ‘analogue of inference’ a ‘means of survival’.  For example, wolves must hunt in packs in order to survive—one cannot live alone for long.  Similarly, human beings at early communal stages always depend on others for survival.  The survival instinct naturally implies a dependence on the community, and thus, this dependence is the source of identity that one would know in this circumstance.  In the wanderer’s case, however, he has been forced out of this atmosphere, and this adaptation, I argue, will show a change in identity or personal self-concept.  See Tyler Burge, ‘Memory and Persons’, The Philosophical Review 112.3 (2003), 289-337 (pp. 327-8).

[36] I have translated anhogan here as ‘solitary thinker’, as one possible interpretation.  Alternatively, translating it as ‘solitary one’ or something similar may also be likely, and would not take anything away from my analysis.  My purpose here is to show that the poet may have in fact been conscious of the wanderer as ‘one who thinks’ at this stage.  Refer to page 5 and footnote 11 for Klinck‘s discussion on this translation.

[37] I.e., an actual memory remembered and not a general idea.

[38] Joseph LeDoux, The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life (New York: Phoenix, 1998), p. 209.

[39] The importance of this question is overshadowed in this discussion by the memories themselves.  That is, whether or not the wanderer is the poet does not matter here, only that a progression of change within an individual is accounted for, and this change is recognizable in either persona, showing us how a self-concept functioned during this time.  I briefly take up this discussion in the conclusion.

[40] In Old English, it can also mean ‘sin’.  Harbus says that ‘The dream is also significant at this point in the text as it signals a major breach in the control of the mind by the self or the will’.  There is not explanation here of the self, but she is suggesting that the self has somehow lost control of a mind run amuck.  Likewise, Harbus has quoted Godden as saying that ‘it is the self, not the mind, which Anglo-Saxon writers considered responsible for “conscious thought and understanding”’.  With a similar void in the definition of self, we are left wondering what it is if not the mind or its processes.  Our definition of the self has no such ambiguity, as it has been stated earlier that our definition does not refer to an immutable soul that is unrecognizable or so elusive as to cause semantic issues.  Our definition sees the processes of the mind (in this case, memory) as a prime mechanism by which a self is formed—what that self is or where it is housed is a philosophical question not relevant to OE poetry.  See Antonina Harbus, ‘Deceptive Dreams in “The Wanderer”’, Studies in Philology, 93 (1996), 164-179 (p. 167).

[41] My purpose here (since these phrases are different from my translation) is to give a more colloquial translation of the OE, and thus cite other possible translations that are complimentary to one another.

[42]  Theories abound as to what was intended by secga geseldan (here glossed companions of men).  Owen says this is in reference to visiting sailors, who come only to leave again; Dunning and Bliss gloss ‘seagulls’; Leslie translates geseldan as a singular, meaning ‘companion’ (‘mind’, in this case).  However, it seems clear that this phrase is referring to the memories of his community, not a literal person or thing that he experiences outside of his mind (i.e., gemon he selesecgas [‘he remembers the men of the hall’] in line 34, the mondryhten in line 41, and the maga in line 51).  See Irvine, p. 119. 

[43] James L. Rosier, ‘The Literal-Figurative Identity of The Wanderer’, PMLA (1964), 366-369 (p. 368).

[44] Irvine, p. 120.

[45]  Thomas Reid, ‘Of Identity’, in Personal Identity, ed. by John Perry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), pp. 107-112 (p. 108).

[46]  Elizabeth A. Hait, ‘The Wanderer’s Lingering Regret: A Study of Patterns of imagery’, Neophilologus, 68 (1984), 278-291 (p. 279).

[47] John L. Selzer, ‘”The Wanderer” and the Meditative Tradition’, Studies in Philology, 80 (1983), 227-237 (p. 233).

[48] John C. Pope, ‘Dramatic Voices in The Wanderer and The Seafarer, in Medieval and Linguistic Studies: In Honor of Francs Peabody Magoun, Jr., ed. by Jess B. Bessinger Jr. and Robert P. Creed (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1965), pp. 165-193 (p. 173).

[49] Woolf, p. 201.

[50] Hait, p. 284.

[51]  David H. Demo, ‘The Self-Concept Over Time: Research Issues and Directions’, Annual Review of Sociology 18 (1992), 303-326 (p. 316).

[52] For more on this motif, see Woolf, p. 200 and Klinck, p. 124.

[53] De Lacy claims that in Wan, ‘there is an overwhelming sense of the transitory nature of existence’.  I would emend this to ‘the nature of community/society’.  Throughout the poem, there is no reference to the natural world or one’s soul dying.  See especially lines 64-88.  De Lacy, p. 129.

[54] See Eilnor Ochs and Lisa Capps, ‘Narrating the Self’, Annual Review of Anthropology 25 (1996), 19-43 (p. 29).

[55]  See Pope, p. 170.

[56]  De Lacy, p. 130.

[57]  Augustine is here quoted in Selzer, p. 230, as is the John Burnaby quote that follows.

[58]  Doubleday suggests that this three-part structure correlates to the ‘three “faculties of the soul”, memory, intellect, and will’, citing lines 6-62 as memoria, 62b-110 intelligentia, and 111-115 as voluntas’, respectively.  Via memory, the wanderer ‘reflects on the conditions of the world and on what the wise man must understand about it’ by ‘recall[ing] his past hardships’; through the intellect, ‘he states as a directive for action what man must do to be saved from his grief’ by understand[ing] fully that his lot is part of the general mutability of the world’; and with the will, ‘he perceives the remedy for that mutability in the grace of the unchanging Lord’.  Following our discussion, then, it seems that individual change in Wan may be predicated on a reliance on God, and in order to realize it, the wanderer must come to terms with separation from his community.  See James F. Doubleday, ‘The Three Faculties of the Soul in The Wanderer’, Neophilologus, 53 (1969), 189-194 (pp. 189-193).

[59]  Selzer is citing the research that was originally defined by Lous Martz.  Selzer, p. 228.

[60] James F. Doubleday, ‘The Limits of Philosophy: A Reading of “The Wanderer”’, Notre Dame English Journal, 7 (1972), 14-22 (p. 18).

[61] I would argue, however, that there is not a ‘disjunction’ between the mind and the self, but that both work in tandem as complementary elements.  In TW, we cannot understand the mind or its faculties without understanding the self that existed before and the one that develops later. Also, Godden’s definition of the self is a bit ambiguous, in that the ‘controlling seat of consciousness’ is difficult to locate or identify.  See above for our definition of the self.  Godden is quoted here in Harbus, ‘Deceptive’, pp. 164-165.

[62] Rosier, p. 366.

[63] Bjork, p. 123.

[64]  Fowler provides a nice description of this, when he says that this section shows ‘the hardship of homelessness, of one who has lost his place [identity/selfhood?] in heroic society; exile exemplified in the personal narrative of an eardstapa’.  Fowler, p. 7.

[65]  It is unclear at this stage whether or not this is the only instance in which an Anglo-Saxon could change their identity (this question is explored throughout the rest of the thesis), but as far as we are concerned here, it would seem that God could replace community as a determining identity marker in a person’s self-concept.


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