Between Earth and Heaven: Liminality and the Ascension of Christ in Anglo-Saxon Literature

Between Earth and Heaven by Johanna Kramer
Johanna Kramer
Manchester University Press

Between Earth and Heaven examines the teaching of the theology of Christ’s ascension in Anglo-Saxon literature, offering the only comprehensive examination of how patristic ascension theology is transmitted, adapted and taught to Anglo-Saxon audiences. This book argues that Anglo-Saxon authors recognise the Ascension as fundamentally liminal in nature, as concerned with crossing boundaries and inhabiting dual states. In their teaching, authors convert abstract theology into concrete motifs reflecting this liminality, such as the gates of heaven and Christ’s footprints. By examining a range of liminal imagery, Between Earth and Heaven demonstrates the consistent sophistication and unity of Ascension theology in such diverse sources as Latin and Old English homilies, religious poetry, liturgical practices, and lay popular beliefs and rituals. This study not only refines our evaluation of Anglo-Saxon authors’ knowledge of patristic theology and their process of source adaptation, but also offers a new understanding of the methods of religious instruction and uses of religious texts in Anglo-Saxon England, capturing their lived significance to contemporary audiences.