If poststructuralist literary and cultural theory does not pervade Anglo-Saxon
literary studies as thoroughly as it does scholarship in later periods, as it has
sometimes been said, to a considerable extent the cause is surely the field's
dependence on philology. Some see this as cause for regret. It may be, however,
that philology is the field's greatest asset. Given the high value that recent literary
studies accord textual alterity, Old English texts are of unparalleled worth in
the English canon, since they are culturally the most removed. Philology is the
set of protocols designed to mediate the cultural difference, making the language
accessible and putting texts into a form that modern readers can comprehend.
In making Old English studies resistant to the homogenization of critical
methods apparent in later periods, philology perhaps represents the respect in
which this field has most to offer literary studies at large, embodying a methodology
for dealing with texts of a high degree of alterity.