Traditional Subjectivities: The Old English Poetics of Mentality
Published: May 2013© 2013
304 Pages, 6.30 x 9.30 x 1.10 in
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Why is Old English poetry so preoccupied with mental actions and perspectives, giving readers access to minds of antagonists as freely as to those of protagonists? Why are characters sometimes called into being for no apparent reason other than to embody a psychological state? Britt Mize provides the first systematic investigation into these salient questions in Traditional Subjectivities.
Through close analysis of vernacular poems alongside the most informative analogues in Latin, Old English prose, and Old Saxon, this work establishes an evidence-based foundation for new thinking about the nature of Old English poetic composition, including the ‘poetics of mentality’ that it exhibits. Mize synthesizes two previously disconnected bodies of theory – the oral-traditional theory of poetic composition, and current linguistic work on conventional language – to advance our understanding of how traditional phraseology makes meaning, as well as illuminate the political and social dimensions of surviving texts, through attention to Old English poets’ impulse to explore subjective perspectives.
“Britt Mize’s persuasive, extremely valuable study makes a significant and very original contribution to a conversation that presently holds great interest for many Anglo-Saxonists. Throughout the book, he takes every opportunity to examine the Old English poetics of mentality with the utmost scholarly responsibility, attention to detail, and keen insight. Mize succeeds brilliantly in making the technical terminology of oral-formulaic theory and metrical theory accessible and meaningful to readers who are unfamiliar with the critical conversations in these areas, and I admire the grace and crystalline clarity of his prose.”Leslie Lockett, Department of English, The Ohio State University
“Traditional Subjectivities is a superb book, brilliantly conceived and executed. Until now, no one has approached the subject of ‘mentality’ in Old English poetry with the careful attention to its role in the most basic metrical structures of vernacular verse that it receives here, and the evidence that Britt Mize finds for a poetics of mentality hard-wired into classical Old English poetry is overwhelming. This is a book that will teach us all how to be better readers of Old English verse and why these poems matter.” Frederick Biggs, Department of English, University of Connecticut