Assembling Secrets in the Old English Elene

Wagner, Ricarda Patricia (13 September 2018). Assembling Secrets in the Old English Elene (Unpublished). In: Secrecy and Surveillance. Universität Bern, Schweiz. 13.-14.09.2018.

The Old English Elene is a tale of deferral, of knowledge desired and denied. On her very overt quest to find the holy cross, Elene encounters considerable resistance from the local community of Jews, who defiantly guard the secret of where the cross is buried. Her search is all the more frustrating because the object of her desire, the material vestige of Christ’s crucifiction, was already revealed to her son Constantine, but remains hidden from her. The poem painfully performs the lesson that disclosure and discovery do not always coincide. Elene’s final unearthing of the cross and nails crucially depends on the interplay between persons who know and things that do. My paper takes its theoretical cue from Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the assemblage, a dynamic grouping of forces and bodies whose combined agencies effect a change in the world. I argue that in Elene, the secret of salvation and sovereignty cannot be possessed or uncovered by any one person. Rather, it is constructed and negotiated by the assemblages of persons and things that form around it – in this case, an emperor hungry for approbation, a mother desiring a touch of the real, a Jew who remembers, resists and relents, a cross that resurrects, and nails that recycle well.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures

UniBE Contributor:

Wagner, Ricarda Patricia


800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 820 English & Old English literatures
400 Language > 420 English & Old English languages




Leona Josefine Irmgard Goop

Date Deposited:

23 Jan 2019 12:45

Last Modified:

29 Jan 2019 13:44


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