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Vol 23 No 3 March/April 2018

Book of the Month

Cover of Scamell and Gasztowicz on Land Covenants

Scamell and Gasztowicz on Land Covenants

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Imagining the Anglo-Saxon Past

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ISBN13: 9780859915885
ISBN: 0859915883
Published: July 2000
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer Ltd
Format: Hardback
Price: £60.00

E.G. Stanley has an international reputation as a leading Anglo-Saxonist, and his perceptive and original contributions to the field continue to be sought after by Anglo-Saxon scholars. The two topics included in this book are just such studies. 'The Search for Anglo-Saxon Paganism' traces an attitude among writers on Anglo-Saxon literature which exalts whatever is primitive and supposedly pagan or crypto-pagan in the surviving Old English texts of the early Christian middle ages, as demonstrated in the work of such luminaries as Jacob Grimm and J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as a swarm of minor figures. Students of Old English literature will find some of their cherished views on individual texts challenged in the process of tracing them to their foundations; but the book has wider implications as a case-history of how scholarly predilection becomes prejudice and orthodoxy. Although written some years ago, the arguments, with some updates and corrections, remain fresh and invigorating. The second part of the book deals with the search for trial by jury among the Anglo-Saxons.;Its beginnings have been sought by some in Germanic legal institutions, by others in institutions brought in by King Alfred to whom much that is great and good in the governance of England was ascribed. The author argues that the idealism that characterized advocates of political and legal reform guided them to a few facts about the origin of jury and to many simplifications and errors in which the Anglo-Saxons appeared as shining forerunners. E.G. STANLEY is Professor Emeritus of Anglo-Saxon, University of Oxford.

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Part 1 The search for Anglo-Saxon paganism: the romantic background; the English branch of the German tree; Christianity puts an end to the folk-poetry; ""Half-veiled remains of pagan poetry""; English and German views on the conversion of the English; J.M. Kemble; the views of the founders seen through the writings of their lesser contemporaries; English views of the late-19th century and after; stock views disintegrating Old English poems and finding Germanic antiquities in them - disintegration, the search for Germanic antiquities; the gods themselves - appearances veiled by Christianity, overt appearances; ""Wyrd"" -""event"" or ""fate"", norn or fortune, early interpretations of ""wyrd"", ""Wyrd"" in the Leipzig PhD thesis, Germanic fatalism accommodated in Anglo-Saxon Christianity, Germanic fatalism - a key to Anglo-Saxon melancholy, ""Wyrd"" - the mark of heathenism, fate and providence, metod, more recent pagan interpretations of ""wyrd"", ""Wyrd"" in ""Solomon and Saturn"", current views on ""wyrd""; conclusion.
Part 2 Anglo-Saxon trial by jury - trial by jury and how later ages perceive its origins perhaps in Anglo-Saxon England: jury - this ""palladium"" of our liberties, sacred and inviolate; delivering the truth not the same as judging; guilt and innocence a matter of conscience; ""England's great and glorious revolution"" (1688), its debt to Henry II's revival of ancient institutions fostering liberty; trial by jury not a proto-Germanic nor perhaps an Anglo-Saxon institution, but what of the 12 leading thegns of the wapentake? why promulgated at Wantage? the 12 of the wapentake probably an institution for the Danelaw only; trial by jury perceived as ""the palladium of our liberties"".