Female Heroism and Leadership in the Anglo-Saxon Judith
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In this paper, I argue that the Anglo-Saxon Judith frames its titular character’s simultaneous adoption of sacred femininity and masculine heroic violence as the acceptable and necessary response to despair in the face of invasion. Judith undergoes a radical gender transformation from a hyper-feminine saint to something altogether androgynous yet celebrated and thus embodies a complex form of female heroism and leadership. Furthermore, the poem reinforces Judith’s righteousness by contrasting her with King Holofernes, whose removal from power becomes an inevitable consequence of poor leadership and character. Finally, to justify Judith’s unusual status as a heroic warrior woman, the poet reinforces the message that Judith is not just a lone assassin but a warrior woman who values cooperation. This conclusion forcefully highlights the distinguished status of Judith-the-Anglo-Saxon: warrior woman, saint, and virtuous heroine.