Geography as “Cultural Politics in the Lives of Cuthbert”

Joey McMullen, postdoctoral fellow in the Medieval Studies Department at Harvard University and candidate for assistant professor of medieval studies and digital humanities at Binghamton, will give a talk today, Friday, Jan. 23, in the IASH Conference Room, LN-1106. The campus is invited to attend.

Around the year 721, Bede curiously rewrote a “Life of Cuthbert” which had been written only 15 years prior. While there have been many arguments as to why Bede would have done this to make the “Life” more international, to depict Cuthbert through a different model of sanctity or to respond to a tense ecclesiastical environment, an additional rationale from the framework of cultural geography would be to revise the ecclesiastical landscape, as set out by the author of the earlier “Anonymous“Life.”

McMullen argues that the anonymous author followed a common Irish practice of propagandistically claiming lands, territories and monasteries for Lindisfarne and that, in response, Bede removed many of these place-names and firmly relocated Cuthbert to his own diocese.