The well-known reference works and analyses of Old English literature show little agreement about the definition and exemplification of style in the poetry of the period. Medieval poetry, particularly its style, is often described as ‘complex,’ ‘sophisticated,’ ‘extraordinarily compressed,’ or simply ‘as dense and difficult.’ This collection of papers, dedicated to medievalist Constance B. Hieatt, considers the prosody and poetics of Old and early Middle English. The contributors concern themselves with the details of how poems and their metre work and employ a variety of approaches, including traditional text analysis, historiographical consideration of the works and responses to them, linguistics-based analysis, application of pragmatic theory, computer analysis, and a comparative-literature perspective. The writers suggest both implicitly and explicitly that whatever cultural constructions are relevant to the poetry of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman England, the poems remain worthy of study in and of themselves.
The collection ranges from Old English to Old Norse to early Middle English, and the contributors include internationally known scholars, as well as young scholars whose research is just gaining recognition. The essays are previously unpublished; some are controversial, many are innovative, and all engage the scholarly issues of the day. They will contribute greatly to early medieval stylistics and the poetics of English literature.
About the author
M.J. TOSWELL is an assistant professor in the Department of English, University of Western Ontario.