Richard Dance

title.none: Harbus and Poole, eds., Verbal Encounters (Richard Dance)

identifier.other: baj9928.0509.022 05.09.22

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Richard Dance, Cambridge University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2005

identifier.citation: Harbus, Antonina, and Russell Poole, eds. Verbal Encounters: Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse Studies for Roberta Frank. Series: Toronto Old English Series, vol. 13. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005. Pp. xi, 298. $75.00 (hb). ISBN: 0-8020-8011-1.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 05.09.22

Harbus, Antonina, and Russell Poole, eds. Verbal Encounters: Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse Studies for Roberta Frank. Series: Toronto Old English Series, vol. 13. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005. Pp. xi, 298. $75.00 (hb). ISBN: 0-8020-8011-1.

Reviewed by:

Richard Dance
Cambridge University

Harbus, Antonina and Russell Poole, eds. Verbal Encounters: Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse Studies for Roberta Frank. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005. Pp. xii + 298. $75.00 (hb). ISBN: 0-8020-8011-1.

Reviewed by Richard Dance University of Cambridge

This impressive book contains fourteen studies, all by Professor Frank's former PhD students in Toronto. It is divided into four sections, representing broadly the different facets of Frank's scholarly interests; its essays showcase beautifully the sorts of sagacious, apposite close reading of texts and their language, culturally, theoretically and linguistically-grounded, for which its dedicatee's contribution to Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse studies is so celebrated.

Section I, "On Words," opens with Christopher A. Jones' "Early Medieval Chaos," a wide-ranging and learned account of the glossing and interpretation of the word 'chaos', from the earliest times to the Middle Ages (and beyond). Equally fascinating is Don Chapman's "Composing and Joining: How the Anglo-Saxons Talked about Compounding," which uses the evidence provided by the grammatical tradition in Anglo-Saxon England in order to discuss the differences between medieval and modern perceptions of compounding (Chapman concludes that process was more important than result in the Anglo-Saxon understanding). In "Cennan, 'to cause to be born'/ 'to cause to know': Incarnation as Revelation in Old English Literature," Pauline Head offers an astute survey of the uses of OE (a)cennan and its wider intellectual context, exploring in particular the exploitation of its ambiguity in bringing out the meaning of Christ's incarnation as an intellectual as well as a procreative event. Finally in this section, Soon-Ai Low's "Pride, Courage, and Anger: The Polysemousness of Old English Mod" provides a careful and detailed survey of OE mod, making interesting contributions to our understanding of its etymological and likely semantic developments in the context of classifiable, universal tendencies of changes in lexical meaning.

Section II, "On Anglo-Latin and Old English Prose," contains two pieces. Carin Ruff's "Desipere in loco: Style, Memory, and the Teachable Moment," is a canny and engaging tour through the strategies employed by early medieval teachers (especially of grammar) in order to convey their meaning and to help it stick in the mind, and presents insights into the methods of the likes of Alcuin, Aldhelm and Ælfric. In "Courtroom Drama and the Homiletic Monologues of The Vercelli Book," Dorothy Haines defines sections of 'dramatic monologue' in Vercelli IV, VIII and X, where speeches assigned to various figures in the 'trial' setting of Judgment Day are identified as particularly stylish and effective movements in these texts, perhaps exploited in their delivery as sermons. Section III, "On Old English Poetry," begins with Karin Olsen's "'Him [th]æs grim lean becom': The Theme of Infertility in Genesis A", which contributes to the critical literature on the artistic merits of this poem's rendering of its source (sometimes maligned as unimaginative) with an exploration of the motifs of fruitfulness and its opposite in the biblical stories narrated. In "Odd Characters: Runes in Old English Poetry," Robert DiNapoli offers a handy and sensitive survey of the use of and attitudes towards runes in Anglo-Saxon literary traditions, particularly the levels of meaning that accrue from their inherent ambiguity, focusing particularly upon The Rune Poem, the Exeter Book Riddles, and Cynewulf's runic signatures. Haruko Momma's "The Education of Beowulf and the Affair of the Leisure Class" is a fascinating attempt to cast sociological light upon Beowulf, drawing on Veblen's theory of the "leisure class" in order to make compelling observations about the court societies depicted in the poem, and about Beowulf's development from "archaic" folk-tale hero to politically astute heir-apparent. Lastly in this section, Antonina Harbus, in "Articulate Contact in Juliana," applies theories of "constitutive articulate contact" in order to provide an illuminating account of Cynewulf's use of speech and dialogue in this poem.

Section IV is entitled "On Old Norse Literature." Its first piece is Martin Chase's "The Refracted Beam: Einarr Skúlason's Liturgical Theology," an enlightening discussion of the influence of the Latin hymnary on Einarr's imagery and its combination with traditional skaldic motifs. Next up is Oren Falk, whose "Beardless Wonders: 'Gaman vas Söxu' (The Sex Was Great)" is a witty, wide-ranging (and eye-opening) tour of the sexual innuendo in verses found in the prologue to Gísla saga. This is followed by Bernadine McCreesh's "Prophetic Dreams and Visions in the Sagas of the Early Icelandic Saints," which analyzes a variety of motifs and tactics in these sagas and how they compare to and build upon the mainstream European hagiographic tradition. Finally comes Russell Poole's "Claiming Kin Skaldic-Style," a perceptive and nuanced close reading of the complex and allusive imagery of kinship (especially foster-brotherhood) in poetry by Hallfredr Ottarsson vandrædaskald and Sigvatr Thordarson.