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Unlocking the Wordhord

Unlocking the Wordhord: Anglo-Saxon Studies in Memory of Edward B. Irving, Jr.

Mark C. Amodio
Katherine O′Brien O′Keeffe
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 388
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    Unlocking the Wordhord
    Book Description:

    The Anglo-Saxons placed a great deal of importance on wisdom and learning, something Beowulf makes dramatically clear when he uses his 'wordhord' to command respect and admiration from his friends and foes alike. Modern day scholars no longer have recourse to the living language and culture of the Anglo-Saxons, and as a result must turn to their 'wordhords' - the literary, historical, and cultural artefacts that have survived in various degrees of intactness - to learn about life in Anglo-Saxon England.

    This collection of essays, gathered to honour the memory of the noted Anglo-Saxonist Edward B. Irving, Jr., brings together an international group of leading scholars who take the measure of Anglo-Saxon literary, textual, and lexical studies in the present moment. Ranging from philological and structural studies to ones that explicitly engage a variety of contemporary theoretical issues, they reflect the rich diversity of approaches to be found among Anglo-Saxonists. Subjects addressed include comparative work on Old English and Latin, and on Old English, ancient Greek, and South Slavic, notions of authorship and textual integrity, techniques of editing, heroic poetry, religious verse, lexicography, oral tradition, and material textuality. Offering a fresh reading of some popular pieces and inviting attention to some less-familiar texts, these previously unpublished essays illustrate the latest state of particular techniques for literary/critical analysis, textual recovery, and lexical studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8293-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)
    Mark C. Amodio and Katherine O′Brien O′Keeffe

    Early inBeowulf, a company of armed Geatish warriors sail from their homeland in what is now southern Sweden to Denmark, where they are confronted by a Danish coastguard who asks them, in ′meþelwordum′ (236) [formal words], to explain who they are and why they have arrived, unbidden and unannounced, upon the shore of his country. The situation is precarious for both parties: the coastguard must determine whether this troop ought to be allowed to enter or if they ought to be repelled, forcibly if necessary, and the troop must establish their own merit and that of their visit. The...

  6. Falling into Place: Dislocation in the Junius Book
    (pp. 14-37)
    Nicholas Howe

    ′Super flumina Babylonis,′ Psalm 136 in the Vulgate, is perhaps the most haunting lament in the Hebrew Bible. Its fearful burden is that an exiled people will lose its collective memory and thus fail to honour its covenant with God. The bitter knowledge of the psalm is, in turn, that the exile of a people must end in the violent destruction of those who forced that people out of its homeland. Under these conditions of historical and spiritual extremity, the psalmist must ask the question that threatens the very existence of an exiled people: ′quomodo cantabimus canticum Domini in terra...

  7. Ælfric Revises: The Lives of Martin and the Idea of the Author
    (pp. 38-61)
    Paul E. Szarmach

    In the introduction to his edition ofCatholic Homilies I(CH I), Peter Clemoes analyses the evidence of the manuscripts and their tradition to discern some six main phases in Ælfric′s treatment of his text, ′the first three being marked by revision and the second three mainly by supplementation and reorganization.′¹ Developing the ideas first set forth by Kenneth Sisam, and ensuring a distinction between authorial changes and scribal interventions, Clemoes presents in admirable textual detail observations regarding Ælfric′s treatment of his own work that complement Ælfric′s patent interventions in London, BL, Royal 7 C. xii, where in the first...

  8. ′Beowulf′ and Scribal Performance
    (pp. 62-75)
    A.N. Doane

    What the ear of the ′oralist′ seeks to distinguish in the continuous stream of the real are discourses rather than texts, messages in the making and not finalized statements, a pulse rather than stasis ... The object or substance has to be ensnared; but first we have to invent the means of snaring it, and we are still only at the first fumbling stages. One point at least is certain: it is only by perceiving - and analyzing - the oral work in its life as discourse that we will get a handle on its textual existence.¹

    It is increasingly...

  9. How Genres Leak in Traditional Verse
    (pp. 76-108)
    John Miles Foley

    Genres do leak in oral traditional verse; that much is patent. Features from one poetic form turn up in others. The question becomes how and with what effect this transfer occurs. What are the structural criteria, the dynamic rules, and, most importantly, the implications for our reception of cross-pollinated genres? The answers developed here are offered as an appreciation of Ted Irving′s lasting contribution to Anglo-Saxon studies, and specifically his typically clear-headed comments in the preface toRereading Beowulf. Here is an excerpt from that introduction: ′... my critical imagination was fired a few years ago by the ″oral″ theory...

  10. A Reading of Brunanburh
    (pp. 109-122)
    Donald Scragg

    Ted Irving was fond of telling the story of being captivated byThe Battle of Brunanburhearly in his introduction to Old English poetry, and of being told by his teacher, John Pope: ′Just wait until you readThe Battle of Maldon.′ Ted′s thoughts onMaldon, when he came to study it, are in the public domain.¹ Although there is no record of his early ideas on Brunanburh, the poem was in his mind again at the end of his life, when I invited him to write an essay on Tennysonʹs version of it, an essay which was published posthumously.²...

  11. ′Ic′ and ′We′ in Eleventh-Century Old English Liturgical Verse
    (pp. 123-146)
    Sarah Larratt Keefer

    Poetry is thought of today as a personal articulation, invariably an individual act of composition, since its form is as crucial as its content, and everyone′s concept of form is unique. This idea, however, may not necessarily apply to a cultural understanding of Anglo-Saxon England. Yet a voice cries ′I′ within many poems in Old English: the narrator inBeowulfinterjects a first-person singular pronoun (′ne hyrde ic cymlicor ceol gegyrwan/ hildewæpnum′ 38-9a [never have I heard of a comelier keel fitted out / with battle weapons]), riddlic creatures challenge the intellect with their ′Saga hwæt ic hatte,′¹ the gnomic...

  12. Cynewulf and the Passio S. Iulianae
    (pp. 147-171)
    Michael Lapidge

    The Old English poemJuliana, by the (probably) ninth-century poet Cynewulf, is preserved uniquely, and in mutilated form, in the Exeter Book.¹ It is well known that inJuliana, as in his other poems, Cynewulf was closely following a Latin source, in this case thePassio S. Iulianae.² Comparison of the Old English poem with its Latin source can obviously help to throw into relief the poetic design of Cynewulf.³ However, as all editors of the poem realize, such comparison is hampered by the fact that the precise redaction of thepassioused by Cynewulf has never been identified.⁴ In...

  13. King Cnut′s Grant of Sandwich to Christ Church, Canterbury: A New Reading of a Damaged Annal in Two Copies of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
    (pp. 172-190)
    Timothy Graham

    The annal for the year 1031 in the Parker Chronicle, MS A of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (CCCC 173), is among those entered into the manuscript in the late eleventh or early twelfth century at Christ Church, Canterbury.¹ The annal records King Cnut′s grant to Christ Church of rights over the port of Sandwich and spans eleven lines of the manuscript, fol. 31r2-12 (figs. 1, 3). Of these, the last six lines have been erased, apparently by a combination of washing and scraping; traces of letters remain. Further erasures occur within the first line of the annal, where four words have...

  14. The Fables of the Bayeux Tapestry: An Anglo-Saxon Perspective
    (pp. 191-216)
    Gail Ivy Berlin

    Fables have always been a potent form of covert political commentary, from the time of the ancient Greeks, when they were assumed to relate clearly to a specific historical context, to Renaissance England and later, when classical fables were reshaped to comment pointedly, under fictive guise, on the ills of government.¹ Fables operate in a double register: they are tightly woven narratives whose traditional ′moral,′ conveyed in words or in images, may also be read as a gloss on contemporary events. It has long been recognized that a number of images from Aesop′s Fables inhabit the borders of the Bayeux...

  15. N.F.S. Grundtvig′s 1840 Edition of the Old English Phoenix: A Vision of a Vision of Paradise
    (pp. 217-239)
    Robert E. Bjork

    In Copenhagen in 1840, N.F.S. Grundtvig publishedThe Phoenix: An Anglo-Saxon Lay, Published for the First Time, with Introduction, Danish Translation and Echo,² the first full edition and first complete translation into any language of the Old EnglishPhoenixfromThe Exeter Book.³ The event received scant notice at the time and has enjoyed virtually nothing but passing notice since,⁴ but it had multiple significances for the great Danish scholar, poet, and theologian. He explains in his preface that twenty-five years earlier, 1815 marked both the coronation year of King Frederik VI of Denmark and the emergence from Danish soil...

  16. Hrothgar′s ′admirable courage′
    (pp. 240-251)
    Jane Roberts

    In December 1996, in an e-mail to the online discussion group ANSAXNET, Ted Irving remarked, ′Teachers of literature bear the responsibility of giving students some idea of the ways that literature & art get at reality ...,′ and as I read these words I thought back to my excitement on encountering hisA Reading ofBeowulf in the hot, clammy New York summer of 1968. Here at last was a book that got at a real sense of just whyBeowulftakes hold on the imagination. It is with some trepidation therefore that I should like now to attempt a closer...

  17. Questions of Fairness: Fair, Not Fair, and Foul
    (pp. 252-273)
    Antonette diPaolo Healey

    The opening scene ofMacbethis a memorably haunting terrain, rattled by thunder and pierced by lightning where three witches evoke the ′Hurley-burley′¹ of the times:

    ... faire is foule, and foule is faire,

    Houer through the fogge and filthie ayre.²

    The Witches′ Chorus foretells, in alliterating phrases, an inverted moral universe. Language here creates reality as Macbeth, hearing ′Prophetique greeting′ (I.iii.78) in the words ′Thane of Cawdor ... that shalt be King hereafter′ (I.iii.49-50), a projection of his own unspoken desires, enacts evil to attain his perceived destiny. ′[W]ent it not so?′ (I.iii.87), he asks Banquo, a question framed...

  18. Bravery and the Vocabulary of Bravery in Beowulf and the Battle of Maldon
    (pp. 274-301)
    Janet Bately

    ′Nu mæg cunnian hwa cene sy,′ cries the young Ælfwine, as he urges on his comrades after the death of Byrhtnoth and the flight of the cowardly sons of Odda,¹ a memorable and often quoted statement, about which the only controversy seems to have been whether it should be translated as ′now (one) is able to test who is brave,′ or ′now whoever is brave is able to prove (it).′² But what role does bravery play in theBattle of Maldon? How accurate a rendering ofceneis ModE ′brave,′ a term which, like the abstracts ′bravery′ and ′courage′ did...

  19. Sex in the Dictionary of Old English
    (pp. 302-312)
    Roberta Frank

    It has become customary for publishers and reviewers of new dictionaries to celebrate the ′four-letter Anglo-Saxonisms′ featured within. Dirty words win friends. When the F-word was admitted to the first volume of theSupplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, its editor twice drew attention to this event in print.¹ The newNew Oxford Dictionary of Englishgoes so far as to make ′fuck′ and ′fucker′ running heads, resplendent in bold type.² On any given day, ′fuck′ is by far the most looked-up item in the onlineMerriam-Webster′s Collegiate Dictionary(; ′love′ took second place during the first six months of...

  20. A Select Bibliography of the Writings of Edward B. Irving Jr
    (pp. 313-314)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 315-346)
  22. Contributors
    (pp. 347-350)
  23. Index
    (pp. 351-359)