In Beowulf and the Grendel-kin: Politics and Poetry in Eleventh-Century England, Helen Damico presents the first concentrated discussion of the initiatory two-thirds of Beowulf’s 3,182 lines in the context of the sociopolitically turbulent years that composed the first half of the eleventh century in Anglo-Danish England.
Damico offers incisive arguments that major historical events and personages pertaining to the reign of Cnut and those of his sons recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Encomium Emmae Reginae, and major continental and Scandinavian historical texts, hold striking parallels with events and personages found in at least eight vexing narrative units, as recorded by Scribe A in BL, Cotton Vitellius A.xv, that make up the poem’s quasi sixth-century narrative concerning the fall of the legendary Scyldings.
Given the poet’s compositional skill—widely relational and eclectic at its core—and his affinity with the practicing skalds, these strings of parallelisms could scarcely have been coincidental. Rather, Damico argues that examined within the context of other eleventh-century texts that either bemoaned or darkly satirized or obversely celebrated the rise of the Anglo-Danish realm, the Beowulfian units may bring forth a deeper understanding of the complexity of the poet’s compositional process.
Damico illustrates the poet’s use of the tools of his trade—compression, substitution, skillful encoding of character—to reinterpret and transform grave sociopolitical “facts” of history, to produce what may be characterized as a type of historical allegory, whereby two parallel narratives, one literal and another veiled are simultaneously operative.
Beowulf and the Grendel-Kin lays out the story of Beowulf, not as a monster narrative nor a folklorish nor solely a legendary tale, but rather as a poem of its time, a historical allegory coping with and reconfiguring sociopolitical events of the first half of eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon England.
This volume is a companion to The Old English and Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition. Its extensive notes and commentary on hundreds of Latin, Old English, and Old Norse–Icelandic riddles illuminate and clarify the multifaceted and interconnected nature of a broad, international tradition. Within this commentary, readers will encounter a deep reservoir of knowledge about riddles produced in both Latin and Old English during the Anglo-Saxon period, and the literatures with which they were in dialogue.Riddles range from those by prominent authors like Aldhelm, Bede, Alcuin, and Boniface to those presented anonymously in collections such as the Exeter Book. All are fully discussed, with particular attention paid to manuscript traditions, subject matter, solutions, style, sources, parallels, and recommendations for further reading. Consideration is given to running themes throughout the collection, comparisons to other riddles and to other literature more broadly, and important linguistic observations and manuscript readings. The commentary also lists the manuscripts and earlier editions for each riddle, extensive catalogues of proposed solutions, and additional bibliographic references. Following the general discussion of each riddle there is detailed line-by-line annotation.This authoritative commentary is the most comprehensive examination to date of the bilingual riddle tradition of Anglo-Saxon England and its links to the wider world.
ISAS Dublin 2013. England, Ireland and the Insular World: Textual and Material Connections in the Early Middle Ages is a collection of twelve essays related to the theme of the 2013 conference of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists, ‘Insular Cultures’. Contributors cover a broad range of topics, from early medieval agriculture in Ireland and England, to sculpture, manuscript illumination and script, homilies, hagiography, aristocratic gift-giving, relics, calendars, Beowulf, and Anglo-Saxon perceptions of the Celtic peoples, considering connections, parallels and differences between Anglo-Saxon England and its insular neighbors. The volume will be of interest to all those working on Early Medieval history, literature, archaeology, liturgy, art, and manuscripts.
What offers over seven hundred witty enigmas in several languages? Answer: The Old English and Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition. Riddles, wordplay, and inscrutable utterances have been at the heart of Western literature for many centuries. Often brief and always delightful, medieval riddles provide insights into the extraordinary and the everyday, connecting the learned and the ribald, the lay and the devout, and the familiar and the imported. Many solutions involve domestic life, including “butter churn” and “chickens.” Others like “the harrowing of hell” or “the Pleiades” appeal to an educated elite. Still others, like “the one-eyed seller of garlic,” are too absurd to solve: that is part of the game. Riddles are not simply lighthearted amusement. They invite philosophical questions about language and knowledge.Most riddles in this volume are translated from Old English and Latin, but it also includes some from Old Norse–Icelandic. The Old English and Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition assembles, for the first time ever, an astonishing array of riddles composed before 1200 CE that continue to entertain and puzzle.
In Old English Literature in its Manuscript Context, editor Joyce Tally Lionarons has developed a multifaceted collection examining the issues facing the textual transmission of Anglo-Saxon writings. Eight established scholars consider the ideas of textual identity, authorship and translation, and editorial standards and obligations. This work also features a scholarly exchange of ideas and photographs of the original Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, making this essential reading for anyone interested in the history of Old English literature. The essays published in this text were originally composed at an NEH summer seminar conducted by Paul Szarmach and Timothy Graham at the Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge in 1997.
Religious piety has rarely been animated as vigorously as in Old English Poems of Christ and His Saints. Ranging from lyrical to dramatic to narrative, the individual poems show great inventiveness in reimagining perennial Christian topics. In different poems, for example, Christ expels Lucifer from heaven, resists the devil's temptation on earth, mounts the cross with zeal to face death, harrows hell at the urging of John the Baptist, appears in disguise to pilot a ship, and presides over the Last Judgment. Satan and the fallen angels lament their plight in a vividly imagined hell and plot against Christ and his saints.In Andreas the poet relates, in language reminiscent of Beowulf, the tribulations of the apostles Andrew and Matthew in a city of cannibals. In The Vision of the Cross (also known as The Dream of the Rood), the cross speaks as a Germanic warrior intolerably torn between the imperative to protect his Lord and the duty to become his means of execution. In Guthlac A, an Anglo-Saxon warrior abandons his life of violence to do battle as a hermit against demons in the fens of Lincolnshire. As a collection these ten anonymous poems vividly demonstrate the extraordinary hybrid that emerges when traditional Germanic verse adapts itself to Christian themes.Old English Poems of Christ and His Saints complements the saints' lives found in The Old English Poems of Cynewulf, DOML 23.
The twenty-five poems and eleven metrical charms in this Old English volume offer tantalizing insights into the mental landscape of the Anglo-Saxons. The Wanderer and The Seafarer famously combine philosophical consolation with introspection to achieve a spiritual understanding of life as a journey. The Wife’s Lament, The Husband’s Message, and Wulf and Eadwacer direct a subjective lyrical intensity on the perennial themes of love, separation, and the passion for vengeance. From suffering comes wisdom, and these poems find meaning in the loss of fortune and reputation, exile, and alienation. “Woe is wondrously clinging; clouds glide,” reads a stoic, matter-of-fact observation in Maxims II on nature’s indifference to human suffering. Another form of wisdom emerges in the form of folk remedies, such as charms to treat stabbing pain, cysts, childbirth, and nightmares of witch-riding caused by a dwarf. The enigmatic dialogues of Solomon and Saturn combine scholarly erudition and proverbial wisdom. Learning of all kinds is celebrated, including the meaning of individual runes in The Rune Poem and the catalog of legendary heroes in Widsith.This book is a welcome complement to the previously published DOML volume Old English Shorter Poems, Volume I: Religious and Didactic.
Alongside famous long works such as Beowulf, Old English poetry offers a large number of shorter compositions, many of them on explicitly Christian themes. This volume of the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library presents twenty-nine of these shorter religious poems composed in Old and early Middle English between the seventh and twelfth centuries. Among the texts, which demonstrate the remarkable versatility of early English verse, are colorful allegories of the natural world, poems dedicated to Christian prayer and morality, and powerful meditations on death, judgment, heaven, and hell.Previously edited in many different places and in some instances lacking accessible translations, many of these poems have remained little known outside scholarly circles. The present volume aims to offer this important body of texts to a wider audience by bringing them together in one collection and providing all of them with up-to-date translations and explanatory notes. An introduction sets the poems in their literary-historical contexts, which are further illustrated by two appendices, including the first complete modern English translation of the so-called Old English Benedictine Office.
The Old English poems in this volume are among the first retellings of scriptural texts in a European vernacular. More than simple translations, they recast the familiar plots in daringly imaginative ways, from Satan's seductive pride (anticipating Milton), to a sympathetic yet tragic Eve, to Moses as a headstrong Germanic warrior-king, to the lyrical nature poetry in Azarias.Whether or not the legendary Caedmon authored any of the poems in this volume, they represent traditional verse in all its vigor. Three of them survive as sequential epics in a manuscript in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. The first, the Old English Genesis, recounts biblical history from creation and the apocryphal fall of the angels to the sacrifice of Isaac; Abraham emerges as the central figure struggling through exile toward a lasting covenant with God. The second, Exodus, follows Moses as he leads the Hebrew people out of Egyptian slavery and across the Red Sea. Both Abraham and Moses are transformed into martial heroes in the Anglo-Saxon mold. The last in the triad, Daniel, tells of the trials of the Jewish people in Babylonian exile up through Belshazzar's feast. Azarias, the final poem in this volume (found in an Exeter Cathedral manuscript), relates the apocryphal episode of the three youths in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace.
The Power of Words: Anglo-Saxon Studies Presented to Donald G. Scragg on his Seventieth Birthday edited by Jonathan Wilcox and Hugh Magennis will find its place on the same shelf with these and other such valuable tomes in the discipline. This is a complex and carefully edited book, that showcases the work of some of Professor Scragg’s best students and most admiring professional friends. The contents range from several studies in homiletic literature, one of Professor Scragg’s own passions, to other of his pursuits, including editing theory and orthography. These are not, however, derivative essays that recommend a single adjustment in a reading or to a source study; instead, they are studies that do what Professor Scragg himself did: they observe clues to larger realities, and they point the way to a broader comprehension of our discipline and its several methodologies.
With the immersion method dominating contemporary language learning, the knowledge of traditional grammar is at a low ebb, creating real barriers to any student wanting to learning dead or historical languages. This revised edition of Reading Old English aims to equip readers (advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and autodidacts) with the necessary tools to read the oldest recorded forms of the English language by explaining key language features clearly and methodically, without simplifying any of the core grammatical concepts. It includes a number of helpful exercises, a variety of interesting and unusual Old English texts to translate, as well as appendices covering the basics of traditional grammar and sound changes in Old English, along with an introduction to poetic structure.
This book originated as a series of papers delivered at a Symposium on Irish and Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture in Honor of J. E. Cross, held in conjunction with the 30th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo in May 1996. The purpose of that symposium was to bring together a number of friends and admirers of Professor Cross to celebrate his remarkably rich career as a scholar of Old English and Insular Latin literature; Anglo-Saxon manuscripts; and medieval sermons, saints’ lives, and apocrypha.
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