Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level





Joshua B. Smith

Committee Member

William Quinn

Second Committee Member

Lora Walsh

Third Committee Member

Mary Beth Long


Anglo-Saxon, Exile, Liminality, Medieval Literature, Patristics, Theology


In “‘We Are Strangers in this Life’: Theology, Liminality, and the Exiled in Anglo-Saxon Literature,” I analyze the theme of exile in the theological literature of the Anglo-Saxon era as a way of conveying the spiritual condition of eschatological separation. The anthropological theory of liminality will be applied in this dissertation as a way of contextualizing the existence of the exiled, and the multiple ways in which exile is enacted. The intervention of the theory of liminality in this dissertation offers a methodology and vocabulary for assessing what exile means in terms of a spiritual identity, how it operates in ideas of spiritual conflict, and how that conflict is interpreted in theological constructs. The theory of liminality provides a way to interpret the symbols that are constructed within social acts that arise from rituals of transition, of crossing the limen, or thresholds of social and spiritual boundaries, as in the case of exile and banishment. As a theme, exile emerges as a remarkably consistent presence, looming and lurking in the landscapes and characters of Old English poems, many of which are religious in nature.

However, there is a lack of scholarship that attempts to understand how exile became such a prevalent theme in Anglo-Saxon literature, which leads to a lack of considering its rhetorical and spiritual function in light of Anglo-Saxon religious literary culture. It is interesting, and perhaps unfortunate, that more attention to this idea has not been afforded, given the clear theological impetus of eschatology and judgment that undergirds much of Anglo-Saxon religious literature. This dissertation will examine patristic literature, biblical commentaries, hagiography, homilies, and monastic regula in Anglo-Saxon England as a way to contextualize the theological concept of being in exile, and its meaning for Anglo-Saxon Christians and the spiritual identity they constructed as liminal people.