This is a study of the history of critical approaches to Old English literature. Its special focus is the Old English epic, "Beowulf", but it ranges widely over Old English verse and prose in general, post-Anglo-Saxon English, and numerous critical writings relating to its subject. Professor Stanley explores critical reaction to "Beowulf", and to Old English generally, from the 18th century to the present day, and argues that much of it is based on preconceptions that have no basis in fact. He analyzes the assumptions that lie behind these readings, and points up the slenderness of the evidence which supports them. His own approach is articulated in his comparative study of "Beowulf". Other specific concerns are the means of expression of Old English verse; the diction and figurative language of Old English verse and literary prose; the monastic origins of the extant writings of the Anglo-Saxons; and the centrality of prayer, divine praise and thanksgiving to Anglo-Saxon culture. All quotations are translated. A full index is supplied of scholars and critics, and there is an index of subjects/passages.
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