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Inventing History : forgery: a great British tradition (British History)
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Mick Harper
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I continue to be bombarded by Beowulf musings which are something of a goldmine for deciding when the poem was actually composed. This one has some resonance for the 'during the English Civil War' thesis. I'm going to have to read the damn thing one of these days.

The Poetic Purpose of the Offa Digression in "Beowulf" Francis Leneghan

The story of Offa and his bride interrupts the narrative of Beowulf at the seemingly inopportune moment of Beowulf’s triumphant return to Hygelac’s court. Scholars have struggled to explain the purpose of this passage, and it is often argued that it was clumsily added to the main body of the poem, perhaps in order to flatter Offa of Mercia or one of his descendants.

More recently, the violent youth of Offa’s bride has attracted interest from feminist critics. But the poetic purpose of the story as a whole remains obscure. Considering the poem’s pervasive interest in dynastic succession, I argue that the main purpose of this story is to foreground the benefits of royal marriage. This has implications for our understanding of Beowulf ’s subsequent career as king, during which he fails to marry or provide an heir, thereby placing his tribe at risk
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Wile E. Coyote


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Mick Harper wrote:
I continue to be bombarded by Beowulf musings which are something of a goldmine for deciding when the poem was actually composed. This one has some resonance for the 'during the English Civil War' thesis. I'm going to have to read the damn thing one of these days.

The Poetic Purpose of the Offa Digression in "Beowulf" Francis Leneghan

The story of Offa and his bride interrupts the narrative of Beowulf at the seemingly inopportune moment of Beowulf’s triumphant return to Hygelac’s court. Scholars have struggled to explain the purpose of this passage, and it is often argued that it was clumsily added to the main body of the poem, perhaps in order to flatter Offa of Mercia or one of his descendants.

More recently, the violent youth of Offa’s bride has attracted interest from feminist critics. But the poetic purpose of the story as a whole remains obscure. Considering the poem’s pervasive interest in dynastic succession, I argue that the main purpose of this story is to foreground the benefits of royal marriage. This has implications for our understanding of Beowulf ’s subsequent career as king, during which he fails to marry or provide an heir, thereby placing his tribe at risk
.


The only thing that resonates with Wiley is when Hats pointed out that Laurence Nowell was both a missing person and duplicate, ie part "a creature of darkness, exiled from happiness and accursed of God," part dean of Litchfield.
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Mick Harper
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"Unferϸ maðelode”: The Villain in Beowulf Reconsidered Francisco J. Rozano-García
The many obscurities surrounding the origin of Unferϸ in the Old English epic Beowulf, his background, his intentions, or even the meaning of his very name, have fascinated readers and scholars alike throughout the past two centuries. However, despite all this attention, we still know next to nothing about the person and motivations of Unferϸ

I’d go for Archbishop Laud

Here then is the situation. The king has a counsellor: that counsellor is evil. Both the king and his nephew trust the evil counsellor. A bitter feud springs up between the king and his nephew.

I was tempted to go literal and plump for Charles I and Prince Rupert. But that's too late. More likely Charles I and Strafford.
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Mick Harper
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Two of our faves crossed my path with silver this morning

Gilgamesh and Beowulf: foundations of a comparison Richard North, Martin Worthington

With each being composed and transmitted in ignorance of the other, millennia apart, and in unrelated languages, Gilgamesh and Beowulf are just about as refractory to ‘influence-based’ literary comparison as it is possible to be. But comparisons between two works need not always presuppose that one influenced the other – much in the field of comparative literary studies is predicated on the notion that comparisons are ‘good to think with’. This is the guiding principle here.

Our paper is slanted towards Gilgamesh (Standard version), in the sense that we are concerned with enhancing the understanding and appreciation of Gilgamesh through comparison with Beowulf. It will probably, therefore, be of greater interest to Assyriologists than to scholars of Old English. But we suspect that the reverse would be possible, and equally fruitful.

I doubt it but it's apples for us.
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Wile E. Coyote


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"Unferϸ maðelode”: The Villain in Beowulf Reconsidered Francisco J. Rozano-García
The many obscurities surrounding the origin of Unferϸ in the Old English epic Beowulf, his background, his intentions, or even the meaning of his very name, have fascinated readers and scholars alike throughout the past two centuries. However, despite all this attention, we still know next to nothing about the person and motivations of Unferϸ


Mick Harper wrote:
I'd go for Archbishop Laud


He is "Un" all the qualities of the "Wolf". Male wolves protect their own family by fighting off rival packs.
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Mick Harper
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I'd agree if I understood.
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Mick Harper
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I got sent this from academia.edu today

Names in Beowulf and Anglo-Saxon England Tom Shippey

and thought that might be interesting. You will recall we once made a list of a) Norman and b) 'Viking' names in our quest to show that Normans were not North-men. (There was no overlap.) Especially when I read

This article looks at the personal names in Beowulf, especially those which are narratively redundant, and those not known from other sources. It argues that their distribution suggests a background earlier than the date of the manuscript, and a plausible origin in genuine memory of the Scandinavian past.

Ah-hah, I thought, shall we see some seventeenth century influence? But then the dude (who I've had dealings with in the past) didn't give a list and I was damned if I was going to trawl through his paper. But it got me thinking. Why not? It really ought to be in an appendix or something. Was it sheer idleness on his part? Not likely, he holds the mid-west US A/S industry together single-handedly.

Maybe the list, when aggregated, was rather too revealing. Anyway, I like to think so.
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Mick Harper
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Beowulf, the Critical Heritage: Introduction Tom Shippey

This introduction to a volume of mostly-translated excerpts from early Beowulf scholarship gives an overview of reactions to the poem in Germany, Scandinavia and Britain from its first mention in 1705 to 1935 - at which point Tolkien's famous essay is generally thought to have begun a new era. The poem's involvement with European politics is a major theme.

Why not tell 'em straight out, Tom?
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Mick Harper
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More in the same vein. I'll just pick out the juicy bits

Goths, Geatas, Gaut: The Invention of an Anglo-Saxon Tradition’, in Transforming the Early Medieval World Catalin Taranu
In ninth-and tenth-century England, the ethnonyms Goths and Geatas and the patronymic Gaut became more important than they had ever been to Anglo-Saxon intellectuals. The sudden popularity of these words has been remarked upon by scholars, and has usually been explained as cultural tools for nation-building in the time of Alfred the Great and his heirs.

Those mead halls were packed with intellectuals not having a clue. So no change there.

exploring the evolutions in how ethnicity was conceptualized which allowed for an Anglo-Saxon 'Gothicism' to become thinkable and by looking at the socio-cultural and political needs that this concept fulfilled.

Gothicism in the seventeenth century was adopted by the Swedes (carrying the torch for Protestantism in the Thirty Years War) but I don't know why the Anglo-Saxons were into it as well.

This idea has, of course, little historical basis, but it was significant enough for many Anglo-Saxon intellectuals to shape accounts of their past according to it.

Obviously they wouldn't know their own history like wot we do.

It was therefore crucial to develop new ways of thinking about ethnic identity, thus provided a handy answer to burning socio-political and cultural questions in post-Alfredian England

I knew the Puritans were big on this but there I was thinking the Anglo-Saxons just wanted their country back.
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Wile E. Coyote


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The Book of Aneirin which contains the text of the earliest Welsh poem, Y Gododdin, has cropped up on AE before, it might make an appearance in TBBOIB as the author was supposedly at the Battle of Cattraith (thought to be Catterick in Yorkshire). It is about 600 AD for those of you that like linear christian chronology. The poem features a series of short stanzas in Welsh praising the 300 heroic Brythonic warriors, who died outnumbered fighting the invading Saxons. In the Welsh version the heroes are delayed by a year of feasting and mead drinking (rather than the main part of the army not being able to attend the battle because of a feast) and then die (presumably with a heavy hangover) in battle.

Those mead halls never seem to work, still we know they must have existed as they feature in Beowulf......which is useful as, if not, you would suspect those postholes were for wooden shacks for an extended family and animals. Where is the romance in that?
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Hatty
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Mick Harper wrote:
The Book of Margery Kempe. The part where Margery (the first woman to write her autobiography in English) goes to meet Julian of Norwich (the first woman to write any sort of book in English). Margery was a rather anguished person, constantly wondering which of her many and varied impulses came from the devil. Julian’s response to her is full of encouragement and Margery’s admiration of Julian shines through. A meeting between two extraordinary women in the 15th century and we have an account of it. The last book that made me cry, Susannah Clarke, Guardian Review

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. One world record (first woman autobiographist in England) meets second world record (first woman writing books in English). Margery is then responsible for a third world record (second ever book published in English by a woman) in which she studiously records her admiration for Julian who has inspired Margery thereby creating a fourth world record (earliest literary mafia in England). And between them they produce a fifth world record (earliest extant copies of English women's literature).

Count the forgeries? More than my life's worth.

The Book of Margery Kempe has caused some merriment on Twitter because it was 'discovered during a game of ping-pong'. Or, more accurately, a copy was discovered because the original manuscript is presumed lost. Kempe, a fifteenth-century Norfolk mystic, was illiterate so she dictated her autobiography to two scribes. Echoes of Caedmon perhaps.

The newly discovered book was 'attributed to' Margery Kempe by an American scholar, Hope Emily Allen, in 1934 which turns out to have been a good year for (re)discovering priceless literary manuscripts

over the space of three months during the summer and autumn unique manuscripts of three major works were brought to light. In July came the announcement by Walter Oakeshott of his discovery in the FellowsLibrary at Winchester College of a text of Le Morte d'Arthur differing in some respects from that published by Caxton in 1485, but which later proved to have been in his office at the time of printing. In August Coleridge's autograph fair copy of an early recension of Kubla Khan emerged from the Monckton Milnes collection at Crewe Hall in Derbyshire. In September a country house near Chesterfield yielded The Book of Margery Kempe, the autobiography of the fractious Norfolk mystic and pilgrim that had until then been known only from seven pages of extracts published by Wynkyn de Worde about 1501.

The book was authenticated by a document dated 1440 used as a flyleaf. Rather worryingly, in view of the iffiness of Malory's background, the British Library cites his Morte d'Arthur for comparison

As with the Malory manuscript, in which the fragment of an indulgence used for repair provided a vital clue to its early history, a document salvaged from the original binding tells us something about provenance and dating. This takes the form of a letter of 1440 from Peter de Monte, notary apostolic, reciting a faculty granted to an incumbent of Soham in Cambridgeshire who has been identified as William Buggy (d. 1442)

How to find a suitable provenance for a book that surfaced in a country house in Derbyshire having gone missing for four hundred+ years? The Bowdens were a recusant Catholic family which seems to be all the provenance required. After the book was shown to an expert at the V&A, it was lent to the British Museum's Department of Manuscripts which allowed Hope Emily Allen access and she accordingly published a 'scholarly edition' in 1940.

The ping-pong story owes its origin to a letter by Colonel Bowden's eldest son which was published in The Times in 1943. He wrote that one of the guests looking for a replacement ping-pong ball opened a cupboard full of old leather-bound books

My father's retort to the hopingly helpful but unproductive visitor was 'Look X I am going to put this whole ' ' lot on the bonfire tomorrow and then we may be able to find Ping Pong balls & bats when we want them'. To this X replied 'Willie, before you do anything so suddenly may I ask an expert (Z) friend/acquaintance of mine who knows about these things to come and look through this cupboard, after all there may be something of real interest there which you may not at the moment realise'. To which my Pa replied 'Yes, if you insist but they are all old household account books but I cannot for the life of me see why they were bound in leather - but if your friend thinks his trip would be worth it I will certainly give him a bed'

https://www.bl.uk/eblj/1997articles/pdf/article19.pdf

Country house cupboards can provide no end of surprises.
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Mick Harper
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Can you send me the name of an expert in rare books? My flat needs hoovering.
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Wile E. Coyote


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The Book of Margery Kempe. The part where Margery (the first woman to write her autobiography in English) goes to meet Julian of Norwich (the first woman to write any sort of book in English). Margery was a rather anguished person, constantly wondering which of her many and varied impulses came from the devil. Julian’s response to her is full of encouragement and Margery’s admiration of Julian shines through. A meeting between two extraordinary women in the 15th century and we have an account of it. The last book that made me cry, Susannah Clarke, Guardian Review


It's really amusing that a book that brilliantly sends up those who revere saints is now being worshipped by academics that can't see the Jansenist humour.


Here begins a short treatise and a comforting one for sinful wretches, in which they may have great solace and comfort for themselves, and understand the high and unspeakable mercy of our sovereign Saviour Jesus Christ - whose name be worshipped and magnified without end - who now in our days deigns to exercise his nobility and his goodness to us unworthy ones.
Then this creature - of whom this treatise, through the mercy of Jesus, shall show in part the life - was touched by the hand of our Lord with great bodily sickness, through which she lost her reason for a long time, until our Lord by grace restored her again, as shall be shown more openly later.
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Mick Harper
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I believe that is the first time 'Jansenist' and 'humour' has ever been juxtaposed.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Monseigneur Harper might have not read "The Lettres Provinciales." by French philosopher and theologian Blaise Pascal under the pseudonym Louis de Montalte.

In these letters, Pascal humorously attacked casuistry, a rhetorical method often used by Jesuit theologians, and accused Jesuits of moral laxity. Being quickly forced underground while writing the Provincial Letters, Pascal pretended they were reports from a Parisian to a friend in the provinces, on the moral and theological issues then exciting the intellectual and religious circles in the capital. In the letters, Pascal's tone combines the fervor of a convert with the wit and polish of a man of the world. Their style meant that, quite apart from their religious influence, the Provincial Letters were popular as a literary work. Adding to that popularity was Pascal's use of humor, mockery, and satire in his arguments.
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