Truth Is Trickiest: The Case for Ambiguity in the Exeter Book Riddles
Available: May 2024© 2024
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 376 Pages
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
376 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.00 in
Not Yet Published
At the end of the tenth-century English manuscript, the Exeter Book, there is a collection of almost one hundred riddles. They are notable for many reasons, but one feature in particular has challenged modern readers: their lack of solutions. In Truth Is Trickiest, Jennifer Neville argues that the absence of solutions, rather than being an unfortunate accident, uncovers an essential quality of these texts.
In opposition to the general expectation that a successfully solved riddle will have one correct answer, Neville argues that the Exeter Book riddles are written to generate multiple solutions. The correct response to an Exeter Book riddle is not a single, elegant solution but instead an ongoing process of interpretation that leads readers to question what they think they know.
Truth Is Trickiest contextualizes its readings within the larger field of Old English poetry, early medieval material culture, and Anglo-Latin riddles. The book pursues the central issue of interpretation in relation to social values, craftsmanship, hierarchical social structures, violence, irony, humour, and sexuality. It concludes with a full list of previously proposed solutions to document the history of the ongoing argument that the Exeter Book riddles have provoked.
1. Introduction: Soð bið Swicolast – “Truth Is Trickiest”
2. The Joy of Limits: The Heroic Idiom as “Code”
3. Muddying the Waters: The Heroic Idiom as Camouflage and Disguise
4. Dark Tracks through the Heroic Idiom: Aporia, Irony, and Paradox
5. Domestic Practices: Manufacturing and Implements
6. The Strange Game of Sex: Asexual Reproduction and Gratuitous Sex
7. Not Concluding but Continuing
Appendix: The Argument over Solutions