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Becoming a Poet in Anglo-Saxon England

Part of Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature

  • Date Published: January 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107051980


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About the Authors
  • Combining historical, literary and linguistic evidence from Old English and Latin, Becoming a Poet in Anglo-Saxon England creates a new, more complete picture of who and what pre-Conquest English poets really were. It includes a study of Anglo-Saxon words for 'poet' and the first list of named poets in Anglo-Saxon England. Its survey of known poets identifies four social roles that poets often held - teachers, scribes, musicians and courtiers - and explores the kinds of poetry created by these individuals. The book also offers a new model for understanding the role of social groups in poets' experience: it argues that the presence or absence of a poetic community affected the work of Anglo-Saxon poets at all levels, from minute technical detail to the portrayal of character. This focus on poetic communities provides a new way to understand the intersection of history and literature in the Middle Ages.

    • Rethinks what it meant to be a poet in Anglo-Saxon England and the social role of Anglo-Saxon verse
    • Thoroughly integrates evidence from Latin and Old English, with translations throughout, to provide a complete picture of Anglo-Saxon literary culture
    • Draws on literary and linguistic methodology to offer a new theoretical framework for understanding poetry
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'A new generation of scholars is shaking up the work of the previous generation, and the best of them to date is Berkeley's Emily Thornbury … [A] thoughtful and well-written book.' A. M. Juster, First Things

    '… Thornbury's book is excellent and should be mandatory reading for all scholars and students of Anglo-Saxon literature. Her analysis of individual poetic creations is always precise, innovative, and fascinating.' Samantha Zacher, Journal of English and Germanic Philology

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107051980
    • length: 338 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.62kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus. 1 map
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: how can we know about Anglo-Saxon poets?
    1. What was a poet?
    2. Who became poets?
    3. The poet in the community
    4. The poet alone
    5. Spectral communities
    Afterword: a way of happening
    Appendix I. A handlist of named authors of Old English or Latin verse in Anglo-Saxon England
    Appendix II. Skalds working in Anglo-Saxon England

  • Author

    Emily V. Thornbury, University of California, Berkeley
    Emily V. Thornbury is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of California, Berkeley.

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