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Dracula by Bram Stoker

      

Country: Ireland
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Horror Fiction
Publication Year: 1897
Edition Read: Penguin Classics. 2002 cover design. Introduction by Maurice Hindle.
First Read: Yes

Everyone knows the story of Dracula in some way; whether it is one of the many screen adaptions, The Simpsons Halloween special from about 15 years ago, or even the Twilight books. Anyone in the Western world can easily conjure up the image of Count Dracula skulking the halls of his castle in Transylvania. Dracula by Bram Stoker is an epistolary novel from the late Victorian Period that was part of a larger late 19th Century gothic revival – along with The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Dracula, for the most part, single-handedly created the vampire legend that still lives on today.

One thing that struck me about the novel was the scant presence of the character Dracula. Other than the opening chapters told from the point-of-view of Johnathan Harker while he is at his castle, a couple references about 2/3 of the way through, and then the last quarter or so, Dracula himself is nowhere to be seen, but his specter looms over every page of the novel.

As I was reading this, I put myself into the shoes of a reader from 1897, the year Dracula was first published. This would have truly been horrific without that inherent knowledge of the story that us in the 21st century all possess. The bizarre occurrences like the two holes in the neck, Dracula turning into a bat, the reanimation upon death after death at the hands of a vampire, and the stake through the heart and decapitation to kill the vampire.  Stoker’s prose was so vivid and dark that he truly earned his retroactive moniker as one of the fathers of horror fiction.

When I read this novel, the primary thematic thread that seemed to be running throughout the novel is that of gender roles – specifically through the lens of female sexual liberation; the two poles of this thread were wholly embodied by the two female characters in the book: Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker. Lucy enjoys the adoration of three different men, taks in their bodily fluids – via blood transfusions – and shortly before her death is sexually aggressive towards her fiancé. Mina on the other hand is meek, deferential to the men in her life, and believes in an innate inferiority of women. Lucy, reanimated as a vampire and therefore completely sexually liberated, must be destroyed by polite and educated male Victorian society. Mina however, gets to live on with her husband and continue being the demure little lady bowing to her husband. To the Victorians, the vampire represents an individual completely disconnected from the everyday social mores of civil society, and that is the real monster.

In my post-reading research into the novel, and in reading the introductory essays in my volume, I was amazed at the continuing evolution and contradictory nature of the literary criticism of Dracula since it started to emerge in the 1950s. The critical consensus amongst the literati is practically nil when it comes to Dracula. This is not unusual in the world of literature, but generally there are some very broad agreed upon agreements. Dracula, however, is all over the place. Just as many critics argue that is a feminist masterpiece as there are who argue my point-of-view that this is the complete opposite. Some view this as a critic of colonization, some as a pro-Catholic novel, and I even came across one article that felt this novel was nothing but a critique of The Picture of Dorian Gray and its glorification of giving into the temptation of excess. Perhaps that just shows the power of Bram Stoker’s masterpiece.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2017 in British Fiction

 

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York Mystery Plays: A Selection in Modern Spelling

     

Edited and Introduced by Richard Beadle and Pamela King
Country: Great Britain
Genre: Drama
Years: 14th Century
Edition Read: Oxford World’s Classics, 1987 cover design.
First Read: Yes

The requirements that existed for my English major were quite thorough in that they forced students to be exposed to works from all six British periods, Shakespeare, critical theory, linguistics, Canadian and American, etc. One that I dreaded most, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, was Medieval literature. I managed to delay this until my final year. I have extreme difficulty with Middle English – I have since I first slogged through “The Tale of the Wyf of Bathe” in my first-year survey course. My Middle English Literature course was interesting albeit challenging (lowest mark I received in my entire degree); we studied the original Robin Hood poems and plays, some biblical reinterpretations, lots of King Arthur tales, and The Book of Margery Kempe – which I still look at on my bookshelf with contempt. I was so happy to be finished with this course. Since then, I have grown quite fond of Middle English literature, but these days I read it in translation, typically an Oxford World’s Classics edition. Blasphemy you say? Not at all! I chose to read Chaucer, Langland, or Mallory for pleasure. In an academic setting, translations are very inappropriate, but at home for fun, I see no problem with reading a [quality] Middle English translation.

My latest literary conquest is York Mystery Plays: A Selection in Modern Spelling edited by Richard Beadle and Pamela King. These plays are the oldest of the English mystery cycles which depicted the most spiritually important episodes from the Bible. Dating from at least the 14th century, these plays were performed on the Feast of Corpus Christi starting at sunrise in the city of York. Each play was performed by a different craft guild (equivalent to a union in today’s parlance), which were known in Middle English as mysteries. Hence, York Mystery Plays. These plays are still performed today as part of a theatre festival in York:

I’ve had this book on my shelf since 2003. I wanted to read something from this period, so I figured this book had been patient enough and deserved to be read. This was a tough slog which got the dreaded one-star rating on Goodreads. The reason I did not enjoy it relates back to my thoughts on translations. I assumed that the subtitle of this edition “A Selection in Modern Spelling” meant that this was a translation. I assumed wrong. This book was neither a translation, nor a raw a Middle English text. It was this strange hybrid of the two that rendered this text practically unreadable. Essentially, words that would have roughly the same spelling, would be updated to current spelling (ex. wyf changed to wife) and archaic letters were updated to the modern orthographic equivalent. Additionally, one other small annoyance that upped the challenge was the placement of the notes. Normally, Middle English texts will have inline notes, so any note on a particular line is justified on the right margin; this allows for some flow from line-to-line. This volume though, used footnotes. This caused extreme disruption in trying to get through the text.

If you can power through the deep editorial flaws of this volume, the plays themselves are quite interesting. Pilate and Jesus are fascinating characters and the Passion narrative has some interesting interpretations of Biblical tradition. The headnote of each play gives a good outline of what the play is about, some notes about the guild putting on the play, and some insight into the authorship. One thing that fascinated me was the sometimes-tongue-in-cheek pairings of the play and the guild (the Butchers and the Death of Christ for instance).

This is an important work in the English literary canon and one of the earliest examples of English drama. The clips I’ve found online of contemporary productions in York are mesmerizing. I’m going to track down a different edition and read these plays again someday; they deserve far better than what they get in this volume.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2017 in British Drama

 

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Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo

  

Country: France
Genre: Romanticism, Gothic Fiction
Publication Year: 1831
Translator: John Sturrock
Edition Read:  Penguin Classics. 2002 cover design. Introduction by the translator.
First Read: No. Third Read.

Almost ten years ago, I began keeping a list, a log of sorts, of every book I read (2009 of course was in the primitive days before Goodreads did this for nerds like me). The Excel file which houses the list has survived for almost a decade and the death of two computers. On that list, I have 281 unique titles. I would estimate that had I kept that list since I really started reading in 2001, there would be around 500 unique titles in total. Notre-Dame de Paris has two very important exceptional characteristics when compared to any other book in that large list: it is the only non-English book which I have read both in translation and its original language and it is the only book on my list which instantly makes me reminisce about the potent odor of fresh goat feces.

In my Grade 12 French class (as a French immersion student), my teacher, Mr. Bergeron, had decided that our year would be almost completely dominated by reading Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo (in its original French obviously) and putting on a full-fledged musical based on the novel with songs from the Paris production. We all had our jobs: aside from the cast, some were tasked with building the sets, others with writing the script, and yours truly… I was tasked with taking care of the goat. Yes, a real goat. One of the English teachers at my high school had goats, my teacher thought it would be a swell idea to have a real animal portray Djali. My motivation was that I figured this was the easiest way to milk the most points out of the project that I could so that I might pass the course (I did). I haven’t finished talking to my therapist about this so I will just leave this whole episode here.

You will notice that I am referring to the title as Notre-Dame de Paris and not The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. This is not simply because my copy is named the former. I firmly believe that this title is far more apt. Unfortunately, when people think of this story today, they think of this:

The title The Hunchback of Notre-Dame was chosen by the original translator as it was felt that a gothic title would be more appealing to English audiences of the time. The title has stuck mostly due to film adaptations; the two best being the 1923 silent film and the 1939 film with Maureen O’Hara and Charles Laughton (one of my all time favorite films which was recently on TCM and what made me want to read this book again). I would argue that these films would best be credited as being inspired by the novel, rather than based on it. Over the last 20 years, many literary publications (Penguin Classics, Oxford World’s Classics, and Norton to name a few) have reverted to the original title.

After watching the 1939 film adaptation and reading the novel in such short succession, I was reminded of the stark differences in the general thrust of the novel and the visual productions. When the lay person thinks of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, they think of two things: the character Quasimodo and an unlikely love story. The novel will strike entirely feelings.

Notre-Dame de Paris is ultimately a defense of the preservation of gothic architecture and a meditation on the fleeting nature of political revolution. Quasimodo, while not a peripheral character, is far from being the protagonist of the story (scholars have been debating for over a century whether that title lies with La Esmerelda or Claude Frollo). And the ending is far from happy with everyone dancing and celebrating.

This not an excessively long novel, 493 pages in the Penguin Classics edition I have – miniscule in comparison to Hugo’s Les Miserables, my Penguin Classics edition of that is over 1500 pages. That being said, it can at times feel like a very very long 493 pages, especially for those who read this for the first time. Victor Hugo is the undisputed champion of the literary digression. He makes Herman Melville look like an amateur when it comes to digressions. Some of the longest chapters in this book do not advance the plot whatsoever or even acknowledge the existence of characters. These chapters are essentially stand-alone essays that espouse the themes that Hugo is advancing, like architecture; show off his encyclopedic knowledge of Paris and France; or go on ironic rants about the dangers of the printing press. Les Miserables is even more extreme in this regard with something like 25% of that big ass book being pure digressions. As such, Victor Hugo is the only author whom it is acceptable to read abridgements without being judged.

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post my love of 19th century novels. They are a magical beast. Rich characters, memorable stories, still relevant themes, and intoxicating settings. Notre-Dame de Paris was really the novel that planted that seed. It wasn’t the first 19th century novel I had read, but it was the first to make me all tingly. If you need one reason to read this masterpiece, it’s this: I’ve read hundreds of books and earned a degree in literature… I can say, without any hesitation or qualifiers, Notre-Dame de Paris has the best and most heart breaking final chapter of any novel, full stop.

P.S. Goat piss stains.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2017 in French Fiction

 

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My Book Collection, or Why I Gave Up Ebooks and Learned to Love Paper Again

2017 is the year that I decided to give up e-books and begin collecting “the classics” again in physical books.

Since the age of 19, I have collected books in some way. The genesis of my love of literature began in the Fall of 2001. I was an accounting student at a community college in Nova Scotia and was disillusioned with the notion of going right into the workforce while all my friends were living it up at universities across the country. So, I was like, well shit, I should go to university. The problem was, during my grade 12 year, I was more interested in drugs, girls, and chillin with my hommies than I was in things like grades and exams (I still keep a copy of my deplorable grade 12 report card around as a memento of sorts). I did some upgrading via correspondence – I retook grade 12 English and Canadian History. The English course was comprised of four books: The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and Macbeth by William Shakespeare.

The Stone Angel was a revelatory book for me. 30 pages in and I was hooked; I knew from that point that I was a “reader.” Dickens’ novel blew me away, Miller’s play blew me away. And Macbeth was just wow. To this day, 16 years later, these four books still rank amongst my favorite works of literature. After completing my upgrading courses with stellar marks, I sent off some university applications and decided I would study English. My book collecting also began.

My collection of classics grew steadily. Being a poor student though, the quality wasn’t high. I didn’t care about condition or the series, I just wanted the titles. Wordsworth Editions from Chapters made up the bulk of literary collection (being roughly $3 to $5 a piece). My passion for Canadian literature also started to take shape with my collection of the New Canadian Library series continually growing.

Once I had finished my bachelor’s degree a few years later, I was just done with books, reading and literature. I was burnt out on the whole concept and sick of that world. I did the unthinkable: I took my whole collection, except for around 10 very special books including my grade 12 copy of The Stone Angel, and sold them for a few hundred bucks at a used book store.

By late 2007, the bug had bit me again. My book collecting grew in ferocity in comparison to my days as a student. By 2012 I had hundreds of books. My primary focus was again Canadian literature, but I still strived to have a solid representation of the Western Cannon. I would say I had a 65/35 split in my collection, with the 65 being Canadian.

It was around this time that e-readers were all the rage. Everyone had a Kobo or Kindle or a generic one. I decided to jump on the bandwagon. I went on Project Gutenberg and downloaded every classic I could think of in ebook form, bought an Aluratek e-reader, and boxed up all my classics, a good 200 books or so, and once again went to the used book stores and sold them off. The way I looked at it, I had more books now and I made money on the overall transaction. I later upgraded to an Android tablet and continued to be content with my collecting status – classics in electronic form and Canadian literature in physical form.

Recently, I’ve grown disillusioned with the idea of ebooks. There is nothing to hold, nothing to hand down to my child when he an adult, instead it is nothing but a file on a computer screen. I stare a computer screen all day at work, why would I want to stare at a screen to pursue my favorite hobby.

This sentiment is not unique to me. In recent years, physical media has come back into vogue with a vengeance: vinyl records, paper books, even VHS tapes in some cases are now hot commodities.

With regards to reading ebooks, there has been numerous data points that have pointed out why they are an inferior product and why sales of physical books have rebounded: amongst students, comprehension suffers when the book is in electronic format; reading an ebook in bed harms sleep by reducing melatonin production, and copyrights are more restricted with purchased ebooks. Additionally, for those weirdos like myself with English degrees, there are some major pitfalls with reading free literary works from Project Gutenberg: the most important being lack of editorial oversight.

When you read a classic work of literature put out in a series like Penguin Classics, Oxford’s World Classics, and even low cost lines like Wordsworth Editions or Dover Thrift Editions, there is an editor who oversees the text of the edition – is it authoritative and recognized – and they do the basics like copy editing. With Gutenberg – the text you are reading was likely copied out by some guy using who-knows-what as a source. And, of course, Gutenberg ebooks do not have any cool introductory essays, chronologies, and they have convoluted pagination.

So, I have decided that I am finished with reading classic works of literature in electronic formats. I want that physical book. I want the smell, the feel, the satisfaction of placing books on the shelf and that sense of accomplishment of closing a book for the final time once I’ve finished it. In January of this year, shortly before I began this blog, I ordered my first load of classics from Indigo, all Penguin Classics, and set off on my building my Classic Lit Collection V3.0.

 

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2017 in Editorials

 

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Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

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2390 7847 65631 1444203 27742061

Country: United States
Genre: Fiction, Nautical Fiction, Encyclopedic Fiction
Publication Year: 1851
Edition Read: Penguin Classics. 2002 cover design. Introduction by Andrew Delbanco.
First Read: No. Third read.

Academics and mad men have dedicated their lives to writing about Moby-Dick. There is nothing I can say that will add anything meaningful to the thousands of pages that have been taken up by discussion of this magical novel. Rather than a review, this blog post will instead be the story of my history with this book and why I think you should read it.

Earlier this year my wife started watching Gilmore Girls from start-to-finish on Netflix. About midway through the second season I joined her in the binge watching. After the series ended, I felt this profound sense of emptiness at the finality. I had spent weeks living with these characters – then, seemingly out of nowhere, they were gone. It had been a few years since I had felt this way about a lengthy TV series. In the age of Netflix and streaming, this has actually become a documented thing, there was a Huffington Post article about the feeling and it has even been given a name in the popular lexicon: Post-Series Depression.

To any vociferous reader though, this same feeling has been around since the dawn of the written word. For some bibliophiles, the feeling washes over him or her whenever a gripping narrative or engaging story concludes. For myself, it is a rarer occurrence. This Post-Book Depression typically only hits me when I finish a very long book. Frankly, I don’t read a lot of really long novels, or at least I haven’t since my son was born and getting a solid hour of reading a night became a miraculous feat. Lately though, as the boy has been going to bed by 8:00 and sleeping through the night like clockwork, I decided it might be time to start including some heftier volumes into my literary choices.

Moby-Dick; the definition of hefty novel, in terms of size, style and subject, left me with that sense of Post-Book Depression. This was my third time reading this magical book. Almost universally acknowledged by the literati as one of the greatest novels in Western literature, Moby-Dick is one of those books that everyone needs to read before they die. The subject of numerous film adaptations (my favorite being the late-90s BBC version with Patrick Stewart as Ahab) and pop-culture references, everyone in the English-speaking world is aware of Moby-Dick likely without even being aware of it.

I had never read this novel as an English student. I had read other works by Melville in university (“Bartleby the Scrivener” in my Intro to Literature courses and “Benito Cereno” in a 19th Century American Literature course I took that focused on American Romanticism and the Transcendentalists), but ultimately, likely due to time constraints of survey courses, Moby-Dick was always one of those books you had to read on your own.

I first read this at 19 years old, the summer before I started at UPEI. I had begun collecting the classics. I had this really nice hardcover edition published by Prospero Books that I bought at Chapters for like $5 (which I now regret selling when I purged a large lot of books in 2005). My initial reaction: this book would be really good if it was abridged and all that stuff about whaling was cut out of it. Looking back, I laugh at the philistinish reaction I had as a young man and amateur reader.

My second rip through Moby-Dick was only a few years ago, in 2013. I was flipping through the gigantic list of eBooks I had downloaded from Project Gutenberg and this one jumped out at me. This time, I really started to get the point of all the whaling minutiae in the book. Melville was doing more than just telling the story of the madman Ahab hunting the white whale that took his leg; more than just one of the most legendary man-against-nature stories ever written. Melville was striving to immerse the reader into this world of whaling. Building upon the success of his prior works, Typee and Omoo, this novel was meant to be one of the great encyclopedic novels. After this second reading, my opinion of the book was that this was an amazing nautical story with a motley crew of characters and a detailed reference work of 19th century whaling and a fascinating glimpse into what would now be called environmentalism in the pre-Darwinism world.

Now after finishing the novel for the third time, my feelings are generally the same as last time. I feel like a few more thematic points sunk in with this read: utilitarianism, racial issues, perception, hierarchy, and individual and group conscience. Each of which I’m sure have generated hundreds of academic articles and books.

In my second year of university, while I was studying at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, I took a course on American literature from the Civil War to World War I. I was in the professor’s office one day and we were discussing our favorite novels. He asked if I had ever read Moby-Dick. I told him my thoughts at the time. His response was simply a smile and a suggestion “read it again in 10 years and I guarantee you’ll feel differently.” Well Dr. Heckerl, I did, and you were right.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2017 in American Fiction

 

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Vathek by William Beckford

207302 6150282 207299 17070365 9781551112817

Country: Great Britain
Genre: Fiction, Gothic Fiction
Publication Year: 1786
Edition Read: Broadview Editions, 2001. academic critical edition, heavily annotated. Ed. Kenneth W. Graham
First Read: Yes

Vathek, William Beckford’s 1786 gothic novel first came to my attention when I was in the final semester my English degree. It was 18th Century Literature II – The Gothic Novel. I had intentionally saved my 18th century requirement until the bitter end (along with my Medieval requirement) as I had some challenges in my survey courses as a daisy fresh student with Jonathan Swift (who I have grown to enjoy) and Alexander Pope (who still gives me hives). Fortunately, the professor I had this for the 18th Century course was fantastic, and the course did not contain any author who gave me hives (although The Monk gave me nightmares). Due to my heavy course load, I had to make some sacrifices in terms of reading and rely on online summaries and such for a few titles. Vathek was the sacrificial lamb. For several years now, this book has sat patiently on my shelf, taunting me, saying “you were supposed to read me.” I decided it was time, not out of some sense of obligation, but because it was the only book on that part of the shelf I hadn’t finished yet.

Vathek is a product of Orientalism – a cultural obsession for some during the late 1700s. This short novel is set in the mid-9th century and tells the story of Vathek, the ninth caliph of the Abassides (the character being very loosely inspired by the historical Al-Wathiq who reigned as caliph from 842 –847). The primary forward motion of the story focuses on Vathek’s fall from grace and renunciation of Islam. Along with his overbearing mother Carathis, Vathek goes down a path of evil to curry favor with a devious fellow called Giaour to gain magical powers. Ultimately though, Vathek and mama must roam Hell silently for all of eternity.

The primary point of interest for me as I got into this book was the treatment of Islam, both in the context of what would now be called be historical fiction and how Islam was interpreted, for lack of a better word, through the lens of 18th century English sensibilities. Beckford seems to be very well-versed in the minutiae of Islamic mythology and history and seamlessly weaves that into his novel. The author is, of course, not a Muslim, so his interpretation of Islam is that of an outsider. I continually vacillated between whether Beckford had a genuine appreciation for the culture, or perhaps Islam was simply an artistic device to tell a fall-from-grace gothic tale, or another possibility is that Beckford looked upon this other culture with the snobbery you would expect of an Englishman at that time.

That’s all I really have to say about Vathek. This was a fun read. It is a short book, only around 100 pages in the volume I have, with no chapter breaks. The dialogue is catchy. And it’s gothic and proto-fantasy elements are very well crafted. All-in-all, a satisfying book if you’re looking for something off the beaten path.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2017 in British Fiction

 

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The Earliest English Poems

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Translated, Edited and Introduced by Micheal Alexander
Country: Great Britain (Pre-England)
Genre: Poetry
Years: 600AD – 1000AD
Edition Read: Penguin Classics, Third Edition. 1985 cover design.
First Read: Yes

Hwæt! Wé Gárdena      in géardagum
þéodcyninga      þrym gefrúnon
hú ðá æþelingas      ellen fremedon.

In the eyes of most undergraduate English majors, these lines are the kick-off point of English literature. These are the opening lines from Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon epic poem about a Geatish hero who slays monsters, mothers and dragons. Anglo-Saxon, or Old English, poetry is far deeper and richer than just the 3,182 lines of Beowulf. The average undergrad English major though is unlikely to be exposed to much pre-Chaucer/Sir Gawain writing, except for Beowulf or perhaps of The Dream of the Rood if they take a Bible and literature course. I was in that situation. These two pieces were the only Anglo-Saxon works I read as a student, and the professor I had for my Medieval-Renaissance survey course only taught Beowulf because he was a huge fan of Seamus Heaney – this was not normally included by other professors teaching the class. My university had several courses in Middle-English literature, but nothing dedicated to Old English. A classmate of mine asked the Chair of the department about doing a direct studies course on the subject, her request was declined because there was no one suitable to oversee it. The writing of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Austen, Dickens, and even Tom Clancy descended from Anglo-Saxon poetry just as humans descended from the flat-worm. It deserves the attention of any discerning reader.  It deserves it’s share of critical and academic attention.

A few years ago, I came across The Earliest English Poems while browsing the Penguin Classics at my favorite used book store. The concept alone intrigued me. Whether I would ever read it or not, I thought it would be a nice-looking addition to my shelf. Edited, introduced and translated by Michael Alexander, this volume essentially serves as a sample of the best Anglo-Saxon poetry from the four major poetic manuscripts, at least in the editor’s subjective opinion. Selections include heroic poems like Widsith, Deor, Brunanburh, Maldon and passages from Beowulf; elegies such as The Ruin, The Wanderer, The Wife’s Complaint and The Husband’s Message; a large selection of the riddles from Exeter Book; and The Dream of the Rood.

Michael Alexander does several things that make this book both extremely readable and highly informative. First, he has written an incredible introduction. The intro is concise, gives context and historical background, explains his approach to translating these pieces, and gives some commentary on why reading each of these poems is significant. Second, he gives summaries and descriptions of each poem. This is very important in making this book assessable, especially for someone with an English degree let alone a layman; Alexander delves into the historical framework of each poem, gives a general summary, and digs into the genre and its significance (e.g. heroic poem, riddle, elegy, etc). Finally, his translations open these poems up to 21st century readers. The language is still “elevated,” in that elegance is not sacrificed. Alexander also manages to maintain the alliteration that is such a signature of Anglo-Saxon poetry. Additionally, a few select words of Old English are maintained, both for dramatic effect and because there is no direct translation to modern English, like Hwaet and Wierd.

It is safe to say that in this 200-page book, I learned more about Anglo-Saxon literature than I did in a four-year English degree. Every poem in this book is between 1000 and 1300 years old – to put this into perspective, these poems are closer to a living Jesus than they are to us. It is a miracle of historical accidents that they survive at all. Why is this a great book: great poetry that stands on its own merits, historical gravitas, novelty, to understand that there was great writing in English before Chaucer, to get some great timeless riddles to try out on your friends, need I say more?

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2017 in British Poetry

 

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