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Words and Works

Words and Works: Studies in Medieval English Language and Literature in Honour of Fred C. Robinson

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    Words and Works
    Book Description:

    With contributions by some of the leading scholars in the field, this book is a distinguished collection of essays on Old and Middle English literature and textual analysis.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8363-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-2)
  6. Who Read the Gospels in Old English?
    (pp. 3-24)

    Every book ever made was made to some purpose, though reading is not always one of them; it is sometimes difficult, however, to reconstruct these purposes from the scanty evidence that has survived. The problem of intention and audience is particularly acute in Old English studies; a corpus of mostly undated and anonymous works offers only the sketchiest indications of context, and allows the modern reader to forget at times that meaning (at least as we must look at it, historically) is a conspiracy between intention and reception. One may be tempted to imagine a homogeneous and relatively static audience...

  7. Byrhtferth at Work
    (pp. 25-44)

    In recent decades, scholarly attention has increasingly been devoted to glossed manuscripts of the Anglo-Saxon period. The harbinger of this attention was a pioneering article by Fred C. Robinson, first published in 1973, on the syntactical markings which are often found in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts.¹ Before this time, scholarly interest in glosses and glossing had been primarily lexicographical,² characterized, say, by the publications of A.S. Napier³ and H.D. Meritt;⁴ but Robinson’s article opened up a new scholarly perspective on how manuscripts were studied and annotated by the Anglo-Saxons themselves, and his initiative was followed by research not only on syntactical markings,⁵...

  8. An Anser for Exeter Book Riddle 74
    (pp. 45-58)

    To just about any other scholar I would feel obliged to apologize for the pun in the title, but Fred C. Robinson has done as much as anyone to direct attention to paronomasia as a respectable and effective rhetorical device used by Anglo-Saxon poets. His close reading of the Book Moth riddle, for example, persuasively demonstrates how ‘a concatenation of puns’ makes ‘the poem self-referential in a complex and sophisticated way, forcing the words themselves to display the simultaneous reality and insubstantiality of language’.¹ The riddle that is the subject of this essay cannot lay claim to such lofty ambitions....

  9. An Ogre’s Arm: Japanese Analogues of Beowulf
    (pp. 59-66)

    There is no knowing whether the Vikings took a round-the-world trip to Japan, bringing their tales of ogres with them, or whether the Huns and the Mongolian nomads left traces of their primitive beliefs along the way as they rode across the Asian steppes to northern Europe, but the similarities between ancient Japanese and Icelandic or Germanic stories are seductive enough to cause us to speculate about mutual influences.

    We cannot expect a direct connection between the Anglo-Saxons and the Japanese, but some scholars of Japanese literature suggest that the story ofBeowulfwas imported just as the story of...

  10. Courtliness and Courtesy in Beowulf and Elsewhere in English Medieval Literature
    (pp. 67-104)

    Saxo Grammaticus is much read for all manner of reasons that lie outside hisHistory of Danish Kings and Heroes:¹ read by source-hunting Shakespearians who quarry Book III to see how Amlethus turns into Hamlet;² read by annotators ofBeowulfin hot pursuit of Hugletus, Ingellus, Scioldus, Frotho, Haldanus, Roe and Helgo, Biarco and Rolvo, Roricus, Uffo, Iarmericus, several of them with variant spellings, and all of them discussed by many scholars of the poem;³ and read by editors and annotators ofWidsithandDeorfor Ingellus, Uffo and Iarmericus again, and to give substance to the shadowy figures of...

  11. Æðelflæd of Mercia: Mise en page
    (pp. 105-126)

    My thesis is that when we read an Old English literary text we should take care to find out what precedes it in its manuscript state and what follows it. We should know whether it is an independent text or part of another, larger text. We should have some sense of the poem’smise en pageand some conception of the manuscript as a whole.¹

    Fred C. Robinson’s classic article, ‘Old English Literature in Its Most Immediate Context’ argues for the incorporation of information regarding the physical context of the manuscript to help establish ‘the main course of a poem’s...

  12. Old English Texts and Modern Readers: Notes on Editing and Textual Criticism
    (pp. 127-142)

    This modest contribution, and the volume in which it appears, are dedicated to a distinguished scholar and an eminent textual critic.¹ It may not be inappropriate, therefore, to take up a subject that has occupied Anglo-Saxonists for a long time; its recent discussion, lively and sometimes controversial,² will no doubt have attracted the special attention of not a few readers and editors of Old English texts.

    Before I turn to textual criticism proper, however, it seems advisable to consider the less elevated aspects of editorial work, the practical problems and ‘technicalities’ that have to be mastered. A history of how...

  13. The Dream of the Rood Repunctuated
    (pp. 143-158)

    § 1. I have already paid a personal tribute to my friend and collaborator Fred Robinson in the dedication toA Critical Bibliography of Old English Syntax(Oxford 1990). It is a further pleasure for me to share in this wider tribute to a man who for thirty years has stimulated my thinking by correspondence (‘O those Fred-letter days’), conversation, and publication, and who, with Helen, has enriched my life by his friendship. It is perhaps not unfitting that my tribute to the author of‘Beowulf’ and the Appositive Style(Knoxville 1985) and my collaborator in‘Beowulf’: An Edition(Oxford,...

  14. Mapelian in Old English Poetry
    (pp. 159-172)

    The verbmapelian‘speak publicly’, ‘harangue’, occurs forty-four times in the extant corpus of Old English poetry, always in the formmapelode(with the spelling variantmapelade) and always introducing direct speech. In prose texts this verb occurs only three times, besides half-a-dozen instances in Latin–Old English glosses. The latest text in which it can be found, with the pejorative meaning ‘babble’, ‘gossip’, is the early Middle EnglishAncrene Riwle

    Mapelodeis the most important verb introducing direct speech inBeowulf: there are more instances of this verb than of all the other verbs used in a similar position...

  15. Apposition and the Subjects of Verb-Initial Clauses
    (pp. 173-186)

    Is a subject still a subject when it is unexpressed? In his elegant study of apposition inBeowulf, Fred Robinson alludes to Jespersen’s observation that, ‘as in the structure of compounds, so also in the structure of sentences much is left to the sympathetic imagination of the hearer’.¹ But though the modern imagination has its work cut out for it inBeowulf, the grammatical context of the compound and the sentence can give direction to its reconstructive efforts. Appositional nouns and pronouns get their salience from their sharing a verb with other nominals at least as much as from their...

  16. The Inflection of Latin Nouns in Old English Texts
    (pp. 187-206)

    Early each fall, one of the first Old English passages my students encounter is from Ælfric’s translation of Genesis as edited in that best of textbooks,A Guide to Old English: ‘and sēo nǣdre cwæð tō þam wīfe: “Hwӯ forbēad God ēow þæt gē ne ǣten of ǣlcum trēowe binnan Paradīsum?” Þæt wīf andwyrde: “Of þāra trēowa wæstme þe sind on Paradīsum wē etað.”’¹ I count myself as fortunate that my students have never yet asked a very difficult question that this passage raises: how do we explain the ending-umin the two occurrences of the nounparadisus? We...

  17. When Lexicography Met the Exeter Book
    (pp. 207-222)

    It is an old story, long familiar to the imagination: an enchanted beauty sleeping through the ages, waiting impatiently for a prince to come. True, one or two tentative suitors got their hands on the Exeter Book in the sixteenth century;¹ and there was that brief encounter with George Hickes at the end of the seventeenth (it left permanent marks), and a hurried rendezvous with Humfrey Wanley in 1701.² But then, nothing at all, just a boring, uninterrupted nap through the Lisbon earthquake, Jacobite riots, Seven Years War, and American and French revolutions. When, after mid-century, writers all over Europe...

  18. Chaucer’s English Rhymes: The Roman, the Romaunt, and The Book of the Duchess
    (pp. 223-242)

    Rhyme – the repetition of the sounds of words at regular intervals – been a distinctive feature of verse in English from the earliest times to the present. The displacement of alliteration, or initial rhyme, by rhyme in the more familiar sense, or end-rhyme, was part of the process whereby French literary culture came to dominate English culture after the Norman Conquest. But the total vocabulary of rhymes, and the range from the most obvious to the most ingenious combinations offered by the shapes and meanings of particular words, are unique to each language, and poetry in English naturally developed...

  19. Seeking ‘Goddes Pryvetee’: Sodomy, Quitting, and Desire in The Miller’s Tale
    (pp. 243-260)

    In the Middle Ages, as Eugene Vance has elegantly stated, ‘thinkers were agile in their applications of sodomy as a metaphor.’¹ For example, simony, writing in a foreign language, and misusing money were all figuratively described as sodomy. Obversely, sodomy was metaphorized by Alan of Lille into the misuse of grammar – a solecism – or the misreading/misinterpreting of what was a proper ‘anvil’ for one’s ‘hammer’.² The key here, of course, is that sodomy represents misuse, misappropriation (generally for selfish ends), or even misinterpretation itself, and Alan of Lille effectively attempts to control certain inappropriate behaviours by marginalizing them...

  20. Why the Monk?
    (pp. 261-270)

    In his portrait of the Monk (Canterbury Tales, I. 165–207),¹ Chaucer presents a religious who not only fails to live up to basic aspects of the monastic life as specified by the Rule, such as staying in the monastery and devoting himself to prayer and meditation (‘studie … upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure’, lines 184–85) and engaging in manual labour (‘swynken with his handes, and laboure’, 186), but does so consciously and with rationalization (‘What should he …?’, 184; also 173–77, l82). He is, in other words, deliberately worldly and directs his efforts away...

  21. The Real Fulk Fitzwarine’s Mythical Monster Fights
    (pp. 271-292)

    ‘To modern readersBeowulfoften seems at once profoundly native and profoundly strange’, says Fred C. Robinson in an evocative introductory essay on the poem.¹ One element of that strangeness lies in the way the poet mingles archaic story with native history in an elegant, sophisticated presentation not to be found in the analogous but incidental monster-fighting of such heroes as Grettir and Fulk Fitzwarine.Beowulfscholars have long been familiar with the Icelandic strong-man outlaw Grettir, but the English outlaw Fulk Fitzwarine, though ‘a popular romantic figure’ within decades of his death,² is today known to almost nobody.³ Without...

  22. Praise and Lament: The Afterlife of Old English Poetry in Auden, Hill, and Gunn
    (pp. 293-310)

    The place of Old English in anthologies and histories of English literature rests more on an assumed continuity of culture and language, even of nationalist desire, than on the circulation of its texts during later periods. With a chronology that verges on the eschatological, these modern works create and record a tradition in which Shakespeare follows from Chaucer, Milton from Shakespeare, Blake from Milton, Yeats from Blake, and so on down to the current moment. A similarly unbroken line cannot, however, be traced back from Chaucer to the Old English poems that open these anthologies and histories. The move we...

  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 311-311)