Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Literary Landscapes and the Idea of England, 700-1400

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Literary Landscapes and the Idea of England, 700-1400

Article excerpt

Catherine A. M. Clarke, Literary Landscapes and the Idea of England, 700-1400 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2006). x + 160 pp. ISBN 1-84384-057-X. £45.00/$80.00.

The debate over the extent of Latinate influence on Anglo-Saxon literary culture is one that continues unabated within the ranks of Anglo-Saxonists and their Anglo-Latinist colleagues. Catherine Clarke's Literary Landscapes and the Idea of England represents an intelligent, erudite, and thought-provoking engagement with such issues as Latin literary influence on medieval insular writings. Beginning with Bede, and moving on to other early insular writers such as Gildas, Clarke traces the use of the motif within the Anglo-Latin tradition to construct the image of the 'delightful island', an Edenic space upon which the various histories of the insular peoples are mapped by their respective authors. In the second chapter, the investigation of the place of the locus amoenus is extended into the vernacular literature of the Anglo-Saxons. It is in these first two chapters that Clarke seems most in command of her material, discussing the use of the locus amoenuswithin the Anglo-Saxon period. Addressing the issue that '[m]any studies continue to approach Old English poetry without the same assumptions of literariness, sophistication and intertextuality which are typically brought to early medieval Latin texts' (p. 49), Clarke convincingly puts the case that Old English poetry should instead be understood to operate in a similar literary context to contemporary Anglo-Latin texts. …

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