Undoing Babel: The Tower of Babel in Anglo-Saxon Literature
The Tower of Babel narrative is one of the most memorable accounts of the Bible, and its interpretative potential has produced a vast array of literary adaptations.
Undoing Babel is the first extensive examination of the development of the Babel narrative amongst Anglo-Saxon authors from late antiquity to the eleventh century. Tristan Major’s illuminating and original insight into Anglo-Latin and Old English works, including the writings of Aldhelm, Bede, Alcuin, Ælfric, and Wulfstan, reveals the cultural ideologies and anxieties that transformed the Babel narrative. In doing so, Major argues that these Babel narratives provide a basis for understanding the world’s ethnic and linguistic diversity as well as a theological stimulus to evangelize non-Christian and non-European people. Undoing Babel highlights the depth of literary innovation in this period and disproves any notion of a single Anglo-Saxon reception of biblical sources.
- Series: Toronto Anglo-Saxon Series
- World Rights
- Page Count: 312 pages
- Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.0in x 9.3in
"Major’s surprising larger point [of this work] is how the story of Babel proves less foundational than one would expect…[This] is a detailed study that impressively brings out the handling of [various biblical texts] across a wide range of retellings throughout the Anglo-Saxon period, even as Major convincingly demonstrates that there may be less at stake in those retellings than meets the eye."
The Review of English Studies, New Series, 1-2
"Undoing Babel, wide-ranging yet everywhere sensitive in its analyses, is a fascinating window not only on the fate of Genesis 10-11 in Angle-Saxon England, but also on wider movements in the ecclesiastical, political, and literary landscapes, presenting a clear picture of both the idiosyncrasies of individual authors and the ways they fit into broader interpretive trends."
Matthew D. Coker, St. Hilda's College, University of Oxford
Notes and Queries, vol 66 no 1, March '19
"[Major’s book] results in a detailed study that impressively brings out the handling of biblical texts across a range of retellings throughout the Anglo-Saxon period, even as he convincingly demonstrates that there may be less at stake in these retellings than meets the eye."
R. M. Luizza
Journal of English and Germanic Philology, July 2019
‘Major’s Undoing Babel fills the gap between the patristic period and the later Middle Ages. Major engages deeply with a remarkably wide range of materials, from Old Testament scholarship to patristics to Anglo-Latin and Old English literature.’
Francis Leneghan, Faculty of English, University of Oxford
‘While examining its earliest interpretations from Jewish and Christian commentators, Major presents a fascinating study of the Babel story in the literature of the Anglo-Saxons.’
Daniel Anlezark, Dept. of English, University of Sydney
Author InformationTristan Major is an assistant professor in the Department of English Literature and Linguistics at Qatar University.
Table of contents
1 Early Jewish and Christian Antiquity
2 Latin Christian Antiquity
3 The Early Anglo-Saxon School at Canterbury
4 Bede and Alcuin
5 Alfred the Great and the Literature of his Reign
6 The Tenth and Early Eleventh Centuries
7 The Biblical Poems of Junius
Subjects and Courses