History of the Early and High Middle Ages and Auxiliary Sciences of History

Doctoral Dissertation Topic

The reformers as a community of values: on the discursive formation of a social group in late Anglo-Saxon England (approx. 850-1050 AD) (working title)

Based on theories proposed from the perspective of a social history inspired by cultural studies, this dissertation project examines the communicative formation and negotiation of reform groups in the late Anglo-Saxon period. The starting point of the investigation is the analysis of the discourse of biographic and hagiographic texts. These are considered to be key vehicles for the formation of a moral code which created identity through the negotiation of values and norms. By debating the essential qualities of morally right conduct, the participants created, in other words, a communication-based group that included not only laity but also clergy, kings, bishops and monks. Therefore, the modern term 'reformer' (or 'reform group') defines a social unit for which the contemporary actors may not have established any specific terminology but which constituted an implicitly present and effective social knowledge that guided and structured actions in the communication relationships described.

In order to be able to demonstrate not only the persistence and structural elements but also the dynamic nature of these discourses, a comparative perspective is established by examining the biographies of two reform movements, which are mostly dealt with separately in current research: the reform initiatives propagated by Alfred the Great and his court circle in the late 9th century, which was moulded on the Carolingian model, and the Benedictine reform movement in the late 10th and early 11th centuries.

The purpose of this investigation is, on the one hand, to add a further point of view to the previous discussions of the aforementioned reform contexts, because the discursive social structure of late Anglo-Saxon England has so far been little considered in the research on this period. And on the other hand, the use of discourse analysis also suggests a starting point for a methodical rehabilitation of the concepts of 'Reform' and 'Reformer', because these categories have been increasingly criticised in the research carried out in recent years.