Old English Literature Critical Essays On A Good

There are a significant number of overviews of Old English literature principally published as companions, handbooks, and histories in the last twenty years. Some of the earliest are still among the best, including Greenfield and Calder 1986, which is a valuable survey of both English and Latin literature up to 1100, and Godden and Lapidge 1991, a genre-based collection of essays by leading scholars at that time. These volumes are restricted to a rather narrow view of what constitutes Old English, focusing on prose from the Alfredian and Benedictine Reform periods and on the poetic corpus and barely including works produced after c. 1020, but they can be supplemented with encyclopedic volumes such as Godden, et al. 1999. More recent collections have sought to address the somewhat narrow focus of earlier volumes and have treated Old and Middle English literature together (as “Medieval” properly should do) or have extended the treatment of Old English into the 12th century. Recent volumes have also been mindful of the multilingual nature of Anglo-Saxon England. The contributions in Pulsiano and Treharne 2001 are arranged by genre but include analyses of the history of Old English literature up to the present day, while Fulk and Cain 2003 treats Old English in its broader literary and historical context, paying close attention to critical debate. Johnson and Treharne 2005 provides case studies of close textual reading. Treharne and Walker 2010 includes themed essays that range across the period, bringing together Old and Middle English in some cases. Magennis 2011 investigates canonical texts from the period but also includes a chapter on how Old English has fared from the 12th to the 21st centuries.

  • Fulk, Robert D., and Christopher M. Cain. A History of Old English Literature. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

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    Useful study that considers Old English alongside Anglo-Latin and seeks to historically contextualize literary production. Includes an interesting essay, “Saints’ Lives” (pp. 87–105), by Rachel Andersen.

  • Godden, Malcolm, Simon Keynes, Michael Lapidge, and Donald Scragg, eds. Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999.

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    Extensive volume of encyclopedia entries of varying length but equally good quality. Essential reading for all students of Old English.

  • Godden, Malcolm, and Michael Lapidge, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521374383E-mail Citation »

    Groundbreaking in its day for consciously setting out to cover major genres in Old English, collection of focused, thoughtful and important essays on the field, including a useful study of meter and a significant study of “transience” in early literature.

  • Greenfield, Stanley, and Daniel Calder. A New Critical History of Old English Literature. New York: New York University Press, 1986.

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    An innovative and authoritative collection that intelligently discusses all major categories of Old English literature and provides a valuable introduction to Anglo-Latin works.

  • Johnson, David F., and Elaine M. Treharne, eds. Readings in Medieval Texts: Interpreting Old and Middle English Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Includes specially commissioned essays, each of which provides a varied set of introductions to methods of textual interpretation by focusing on individual case studies and the broader application of critical approaches. Aimed at undergraduates and their teachers.

  • Magennis, Hugh. The Cambridge Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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    Consciously setting out to contextualize literature produced during the Anglo-Saxon period, this volume provides user-friendly framing chapters to orient the newcomer to the historical and intellectual background of literary production. Also includes dedicated discussion of the major Anglo-Latin writers and of the reception of early literature in the centuries since its creation.

  • Old English Newsletter. 1967–.

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    Important newsletter that contains short publications, many useful for teaching, news about publications and forthcoming research, and an annual evaluative bibliography. Should be one of the first stopping-off points for scholars.

  • Pulsiano, Phillip, and Elaine M. Treharne, eds. A Companion to Anglo-Saxon Literature. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209041.2001.xE-mail Citation »

    Extensive collection of contributions focusing on historical context and literary genres and offering detailed readings of canonical and noncanonical texts from scientific prose to sapiential literature. Important chapters on manuscript culture, the Old English elegies, and Old English in modern academia.

  • Treharne, Elaine M., and Greg Walker, eds. Oxford Handbook of Medieval Literature in English. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Large volume with three dozen essays, many of which fold Old and Middle English literature into cogent, themed discussions. Includes significant essays on heroic literature, wisdom texts, and manuscript production.

  • Preface and Acknowledgements viii

    Abbreviations xii

    Part I Main Currents in Twentieth-Century Criticism 1

    1 Old English Studies 1901–1975 3

    The Earlier Twentieth Century 4

    Literary Criticism: A Slow Start 8

    Two Scholars Representative of their Eras 10

    New Directions after the Second World War 16

    Changing Currents in Beowulf Studies 20

    Key Works from the Early Seventies 32

    Part II Anglo-Saxon Lore and Learning 41

    2 Literacy and Latinity 43

    Anglo-Latin Literature: Background or Mainstream? 44

    Education in Two Languages 52

    The Student in the Classroom 55

    The Venerable Bede 58

    A Selection from the Criticism 62

    Excerpt: Joyce Hill, ‘Learning Latin in Anglo-Saxon England: Traditions, Texts and Techniques, (2003) 64

    3 Textuality and Cultural Transformations 76

    The Anglo-Saxon Book: Icon or Pragmatic Object? 78

    Writerly Self-Reflexivity 81

    Reading Old English Texts in their Manuscript Context 85

    Authors and Scribes: The Flux of Texts 88

    From Latin to Old English: Translation or Transformation? 92

    Source Studies and the Culture of Translation 96

    A Selection from the Criticism 100

    Excerpt: M.B. Parkes, ‘The Palaeography of the Parker Manuscript of the Chronicle, Laws, and Sedulius, and Historiography at Winchester in the Late Ninth and Tenth Centuries’ (1976) 101

    4 Orality 112

    Parry, Lord, and their Legacy 116

    Oral Poetics and Noetics 120

    A Selection from the Criticism 126

    Selection: Donald K. Fry, ‘The Memory of Cædmon’ (1981) 127

    5 Heroic Tradition 136

    Short Poems on Legendary Themes 139

    Brunanburh, Maldon, and the Critics 142

    Beowulf and the Critics 149

    Indeterminacy and its Discontents 167

    A Selection from the Criticism 171

    Selection: Ernst Leisi, ‘Gold and Human Worth in Beowulf ’, first published as ‘Gold und Manneswert im Beowulf ’ (1952) 173

    Part III Other Topics and Approaches 185

    6 Style 187

    A Selection from the Criticism 192

    Selection: J.R. Hall, ‘Perspective and Wordplay in the Old English Rune Poem’ (1977) 194

    7 Theme 203

    A Selection from the Criticism 207

    Selection: Hugh Magennis, ‘Images of Laughter in Old English Poetry, with Particular Reference to the Hleahtor Wera of The Seafarer’ (1992) 209

    8 Genre and Gender 222

    Genre 223

    Gender 227

    A Selection from the Criticism 230

    Selection: Lisa M.C. Weston, ‘Women’s Medicine, Women’s Magic: The Old English Metrical Childbirth Charms’ (1995) 232

    9 Saints’ Lives and Christian Devotion 246

    A Selection from the Criticism 254

    Selection: Edward B. Irving, Jr, ‘Crucifixion Witnessed, or Dramatic Interaction in The Dream of the Rood ’ (1986) 256

    10 Ælfric 267

    A Selection from the Criticism 274

    Excerpt: Malcolm Godden, ‘Apocalypse and Invasion in Late Anglo-Saxon England’ (1994) 276

    11 Translating, Editing, and Making it New 290

    Translating 290

    Editing 295

    Making it New 297

    A Selection from the Criticism 299

    Selection: Joshua Byron Smith, ‘Borges and Old English’ 301

    Afterword 319

    Selection Bibliography 321

    Index of Modern Authors Cited 329

    General Index 336

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