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English Alliterative Verse
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Book description

English Alliterative Verse tells the story of the medieval poetic tradition that includes Beowulf, Piers Plowman, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, stretching from the eighth century, when English poetry first appeared in manuscripts, to the sixteenth century, when alliterative poetry ceased to be composed. Eric Weiskott draws on the study of meter to challenge the traditional division of medieval English literary history into Old English and Middle English periods. The two halves of the alliterative tradition, divided by the Norman Conquest of 1066, have been studied separately since the nineteenth century; this book uses the history of metrical form and its cultural meanings to bring the two halves back together. In combining literary history and metrical description into a new kind of history he calls 'verse history', Weiskott reimagines the historical study of poetics.


'With its emphasis on prologues and on diversity, English Alliterative Verse is perhaps itself best seen not so much as a new synthetic history as a provocative preface to a variety of fresh narratives still to be written, by Weiskott himself and by others stimulated by his labours here. The book will surely succeed in its aim of enlivening debate about the forms that literary history might in future take.'

Sarah Wood Source: The Review of English Studies

'The precise nature of the relationship of Old English to Middle English alliterative meter has long vexed literary historians, whose progress toward reconstruction has been, at best, halting. … In his debut monograph, Eric Weiskott offers an empirically innovative and theoretically trenchant solution to this problem.'

Nicholas Myklebust Source: Modern Philology Journal

'The author’s major aim is to demonstrate a continuity of ‘verse history’ for English alliterative poetry from its first recorded appearance in Old English up to its final flowering in a small group of sixteenth-century poems of political prophecy.'

Mark Griffith Source: Notes and Queries

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  • Chapter 1 - Beowulf and Verse History
    pp 23-52
  • Chapter 5 - The Erkenwald Poet’s Sense of History
    pp 127-147


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