Traditions are created and maintained by groups of people living in specific times and places: they do not have a life of their own. In this radical new approach to Old English poetics, the author argues that the apparent timelessness and stability of Old English poetic convention is a striking historical phenomenon that must be accounted for, not assumed, and that the perceived conservatism of Old English poetic conventions is the result of choice. Successive generations of poets deliberately maintained the traditionality of Old English poetry, putting it into dialogue with contemporary conditions to express critique and dissent as well as nostalgia. The author makes particular use of the rich language of treasure to be found in Anglo-Saxon verse to historicise her argument, but her argument has wide implications for how we approach the role of tradition in the poetry of earlier societies. Dr ELIZABETH TYLER teaches in the Department of English and the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York.
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