Scott DeGregorio

title.none: Rosser and Treharne, eds., Early Medieval English Texts and Interpretations (Scott DeGregorio)

identifier.other: baj9928.0402.014 04.02.14

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Scott DeGregorio, University of Michigan--Dearborn,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Rosser, Susan, and Elaine Treharne, eds. Early Medieval English Texts and Interpretations: Studies Presented to Donald G. Scragg. Series: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, vol. 252. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2003. Pp. xix, 391. $40.00 0-86698-295-7. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.02.14

Rosser, Susan, and Elaine Treharne, eds. Early Medieval English Texts and Interpretations: Studies Presented to Donald G. Scragg. Series: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, vol. 252. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2003. Pp. xix, 391. $40.00 0-86698-295-7. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Scott DeGregorio
University of Michigan--Dearborn

This hefty volume celebrates the achievements of one of the world's leading scholars in the field of Old English Literature and Language, Donald G. Scragg, Professor of Anglo-Saxon Studies at the University of Manchester and Director of the distinguished Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies. The editors explain that the organizing principles of the collection "Icentre on Don Scragg's specialisms: namely, editing and the transmission of texts, source studies, and interpretations of Old and transitional English poetry and prose" (xii). Nearly all the prose dealt with in the volume is homiletic, yet that emphasis will hardly surprise Anglo- Saxonist readers who are so hugely indebted to Professor Scragg's work on the Old English homiletic corpus.

The twenty essays are organized into two sections-- "Influences and Interpretations" and "The Editing and Transmission of Texts." The essay on Layamon's Brut by Carole Weinburg, which rounds out Section One, contains enough on issues of editing and transmission to justify its inclusion in Section Two, where it seems to me it would have been more at home. Homiletic material is, as noted, a presence in each section and accounts for some of the volume's most compelling papers. Several of these treat the work of Anglo-Saxon England's foremost homilist, Abbot Aelfric of Eynsham. Section One includes three papers on Aelfric, and these cover such issues as the grammatical revisions in Aelfric's The Catholic Homilies (Malcolm Godden), the parallels between his sanctorale cycle and the Benedictional of Aethelwold (Mechthild Gretsch), and the debt his own homilies owe to the Carolingian homiliary tradition (Joyce Hill). In Section Two, meanwhile, readers once again are offered three papers on Aelfric: an edition of Aelfric's Letter to Brother Edward (Mary Clayton), a discussion of the transmission and adaptation of Aelfric's Letter to Sigefyrth (Jonathan Wilcox), and an argument that Aelfric's early Latin training at Winchester came at the hands of a Welsh scholar named Iorwerth (Michael Lapidge). Anglo-Saxon England's other known homilist, Archbishop Wulfstan of York, is also treated in Section Two in an essay by Andy Orchard, who outlines several innovative strategies for editing Wulfstan's works.

The volume also treats the so-called anonymous tradition of homilies and hagiography. The bulk of coverage, however, comes in Section Two, with just a single paper appearing in the opening section. There Patrizia Lendinara covers a frequent yet understudied homiletic motif, that of every individual soul's appearing alone in front of the Judge at Judgment Day. Section Two meanwhile features two papers (Jane Roberts and Charles Wright) on issues of textual emendation and form in the Vercelli Homilies, which Scragg himself recently edited, an edition of the anonymous Judgment Day homily Be Heofonwarum 7 be Helwarum (Loredana Teresi) and another of the Beowulf Manuscript's The Passion of St Christopher (by the late Phillip Pulsiano), and short piece on the twelfth-century transmission of the Cotton Corpus Legendary (Joanna Proud), which provides key evidence for the demand for Latin Hagiography in the period 1060P1200.

The remaining pieces in the volume cover a range of intriguing issues that help to give the collection scope and balance. In the first of four such articles that populate Section One, Roberta Frank, in "North-Sea Soundings in Andreas," examines the first poem in the Vercelli Book from the perspective of skaldic poetic composition, arguing that the imagery and diction employed by the poet "may mark the spots where he is exploiting his audience's familiarity with a kind of poetry now forgotten" (2). Next, the role of violence in Beowulf is explored by Gale Owen-Crocker, who centers her discussion around three image-clusters frequently overlooked in discussions of the poem-- mutilation, decapitation, and the unburied dead. Crocker's piece is followed by one of the most interesting papers in the volume on transitional English prose, as Alexander Rumble investigates how the copying and translation of pre-Conquest charters in the twelfth century can be shown to reflect "a growing uncertainty on the part of twelfth-century administrators about the ability of their successors to cope with Anglo-Saxon records in Old English" (116). In the volume's only paper on Middle English, Carole Wienburg's "Hende Words in Layamon's Brut" demonstrates how the semantic range of that adjective in the poem is linked closely to the terms corteis, corteisie, and corteisement, as they appear in Layamon's main source, Wace's Roman de Brut. Of the three articles in Section Two on non-homiletic issues, two concentrate on the prose works associated with King Alfred the Great. Connecting the decline in Alfredian studies to the lamentable state of the modern editions that comprise the Alfredian corpus, Paul Szarmach ups the ante by showing how insufficiencies in present editions of Alfred's works have led in addition to "some serious distortions in the literary and cultural record" (146); his call for "an Alfredian Klaeber" (148) to replace our present editions is hopefully one that will be met in the not-too- distant future. Janet Bately then underscores the problem with divisions and chapters headings in the texts of the Alfredian period, for these, she establishes, are often not authorial and of varying quality, frustrating any attempt to "reconstruct the 'original' layout of Alfredian translations" (166). In the volume's final essay, Timothy Graham provides an edition of the seven letters that William L'Isle, an antiquary who lived in the late-sixteenth early seventeenth century, wrote to Sir Robert Cotton, a correspondence which, Graham argues, reveals L'Isle to have been a talented Anglo-Saxonist as well as a translator of works in Greek and French.

Specialists in Anglo-Saxon literature and culture will find much to ponder in these fine essays, the depth and detail of which not only fittingly attest to the work of the scholar they seek to honor, but also contribute to the fields of knowledge they have chosen as means for honoring him.