Old-fashioned literary appreciation tends to look—well, old-fashioned. But I begin to wonder whether it is perhaps actually “retro” and thus due for a comeback.
With a certain anguish of soul, I note that "free reign" seems now to be the accepted reanalysis of "free rein" even among quite educated people. It makes some sense, of course, and as a figure of thought it makes more sense to the average person of the 21st century than an equestrian metaphor.
Hagiography is a lot easier when the saint has had the sense to shut up. William of Malmesbury’s book on the life and miracles of St Aldhelm was held back by two things: not enough written about the saint, and too much written by him. William’s problem wasn’t the quantity of Aldhelm’s writings so much as their style, although he made a valiant attempt to defend it.
Like many other people, you have probably been warned within the last year that your society, state, organization, or household is about to return to the Dark Ages.
Judging historical artworks within historical categories seems, in general, like a Good Thing, but it leads sometimes to unanticipated conclusions. I've been working (i.e. should be working right now) on Osbern of Canterbury's late 11th century life of St Ælfheah, most of which is made up.
Medieval poets' assumptions about their audience have been on my mind a lot lately. Literary riddles (to which the Anglo-Saxons were addicted) seem like a good lens to look at those assumptions with—after all, there's not much point in a riddle only its author knows the answer to.
The day after April Fool's day seems appropriate for pondering how to recognize a joke. I've been reading the Old English poem Andreas, and came across this passage:
I'm an assistant professor in the English department at UC Berkeley. My field is early medieval literature, mainly Old English and the Latin of England before the Norman Conquest: currently my main project is a book called Becoming a Poet in Anglo-Saxon England.