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Old English Literature - a Guide to Criticism with Selected Readings : A Guide to Criticism with Selected Readings - John D. Niles

Old English Literature - a Guide to Criticism with Selected Readings

A Guide to Criticism with Selected Readings

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Published: 6th May 2016
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Old English Literature is the first book to review the critical reception oldie field from 1900 to the present. Moving beyond a focus on individual literary texts, the book presents ample coverage of the different schools, methods, and assumptions that have affected the discipline over the years. It examines notable works and authors from the period, including Beowulf: the Venerable Bede, heroic poems, and devotional literature. It also uses excerpts from ten critical studies to reinforce key perspectives and methods introduced within the text.

The book addresses the complex questions of medieval literacy, textuality, and orality, as well as issues of style, gender, genre, and theme. It embraces the interdisciplinary nature of the field with references to historical studies, religious studies, anthropology, art history, and much more. Drawing on over a century's worth of scholarly work, this is an essential guide to the factors that have shaped the modern critical reception of the earliest English literature.

"John D. Niles has long been one of the most intelligent and creative readers of Old English literature; wherever his wide-ranging interest turns, he writes with a poet’s heart, a scholar’s sharp insight, and a sure grasp of critical history. One could hardly ask for a livelier or more inspiring guide to the current state of Old English studies." -Roy M. Liuzza, University of Tennessee

"Old English Literature is authoritative, comprehensive, reflective and wise, reflecting the author’s breadth of understanding of his subject and his secure appreciation of the wider context of literary studies in the twentieth and twenty-first century. The book will be seen as an indispensable guide to Anglo-Saxon literary studies, complementing Niles’s The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England 1066-1901.” -Hugh Magennis, Queen’s University Belfast


"This is a wide-ranging survey of critical studies on Old English literature that effectively maps out a complete field, all described in the engaged voice of a toiler in that field who is as generous as he is well-informed in his  assessments. Accounts of important studies are leavened with brief biographies of influential critics that facilitate understanding critical movements in their full context, while reprinted key essays provide an added bonus. Through crafting this highly ambitious guide, Niles has provided a service for anyone interested in the study of Old English literature as it has been practiced over the last forty or so years."  -Jonathan Wilcox, University of Iowa

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 Caedmon’ (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

ISBN: 9780631220572
ISBN-10: 0631220577
Series: Blackwell Guides to Criticism
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 368
Published: 6th May 2016
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 24.4 x 17.0  x 1.6
Edition Number: 1