115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Relationship Over Dialectic: Interdependent Voices in the prose Old English Boethius

Britton Brooks, University of Hawai'i, Manoa

This paper will explore the construction and use of voice in the prose Old English Boethius. It will argue that the Old English text presents a marked transformation of the dialectic of its Latin exemplar. Whereas the Latin text tends toward the analytic and Socratic, the Old English shifts the dialectic to an intimate and interdependent dialogue of voices tightly focused on the internal, on the processes of the inner life and the workings of the mind.

Proposal: 

This paper will explore the construction and use of voice in the prose Old English Boethius. It will argue that the Old English text presents a marked transformation of the dialectic of its Latin exemplar. Whereas the Latin text tends toward the analytic and Socratic, the Old English shifts the dialectic to an intimate and interdependent dialogue of voices tightly focused on the internal, on the processes of the inner life and the workings of the mind. This general trend toward intimacy and dialogue based on relationship instead of logic has been noted in passing by scholars, notably Discenza, Waterhouse, and Payne,[1] but there has been no systematic analysis of this substantial alteration to Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae, nor has there been any discussion of the growth of the primary interlocutors’ interdependence. This set of transformations of the text by the Old English author fits into two categories: first, the split of voices that refocuses the first two-thirds of the dialogue on Boethius’ mod instead of the historical Boethius; and second, the Old English author’s consistent address to general humanity.


[1] N. Discenza, The King’s English (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005), p. 70; R. Waterhouse, ‘Tone in Alfred’s Version of Augustine’s Soliloquies’, Studies in Earlier Old English Prose: Sixteen Original Contributions, ed. P. Szarmach (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), 47–8; A. Payne, King Alfred and Boethius: An Analysis of the Old English Version of the Consolation of Philosophy (Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1968), p. 116.