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English Alliterative Verse
Poetic Tradition and Literary History

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Part of Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature

  • Date Published: January 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316620700

$ 30.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • A lively and provocatively revisionist account of alliterative verse from Beowulf through to early Renaissance times, traversing 900 years of literary history
    • Presents new research into the authorship and provenance of some notable verses in the meter, including Beowulf itself
    • Reconsiders the traditional division of medieval English literary history into 'Old' and 'Middle' sub-periods
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    • Winner, 2018 Beatrice White Prize, The English Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    '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, 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, 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, Notes and Queries

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316620700
    • length: 250 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 150 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.35kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Beowulf and verse history
    2. Prologues to Old English poetry
    3. Lawman, the last Old English poet and the first Middle English poet
    4. Prologues to Middle English alliterative poetry
    5. The Erkenwald poet's sense of history
    6. The alliterative tradition in the sixteenth century.

  • Author

    Eric Weiskott, Boston College, Massachusetts
    Eric Weiskott is Assistant Professor of English at Boston College, Massachusetts. In addition to publishing widely on alliterative verse and early English literary history in journals such as Anglo-Saxon England, ELH, Modern Language Quarterly, Modern Philology, Review of English Studies, and Yearbook of Langland Studies, Weiskott is also a practicing poet. Most recently his poems have appeared in burntdistrict, Cricket Online Review, and paper nautilus. His first poetry chapbook was Sharp Fish (2008). With Irina Dumitrescu, he is currently co-editing a volume of essays with the working title Early English Poetics and the History of Style.


    • Winner, 2018 Beatrice White Prize, The English Association

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