Review by Choice Review
This collection of 15 essays by prominent scholars of Old English offers a comprehensive and sophisticated introduction to the Anglo-Saxon period. Patrick Wormald's opening essay is a solid summary of Anglo-Saxon social, political, and religious history. Excellent essays cover the Old English language and the development of prose and poetry. The major Old English texts, both prose and poetry, are then examined in association with one another, under such thematic headings as "perceptions of transcience," "perceptions of eternity," "fatalism and the millenium," "heroic values and Christian ethics." In much the same fashion, other essays cover Old and New Testament biblical literature, the cult of the saints, and the influence of Germanic legend. Beowulf is the only Old English poem to be treated in a separate chapter (and this chapter is probably the weakest in the book). Although undergraduates may find more straightforward surveys, like Stanley B. Greenfield and Daniel G. Calder's A New Critical Introduction to Old English Literature (CH, Nov'86), sufficient for their needs, this anthology's critical sophistication and abundance of detail render it an essential tool for graduate students and faculty.-M. A. Dalbey, Eastern Michigan University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.