Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Beowulf: An Edition with Relevant Shorter Texts

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Beowulf: An Edition with Relevant Shorter Texts

Article excerpt

Beowulf: An Edition with Relevant Shorter Texts, ed. Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998). xii + 318 pp.; 12 pp. of plates. ISBN o-631-17225-4. L14.99. It is rare for a new edition of Beowulf to inspire the eager anticipation that has preceded that of Bruce Mitchell and Fred Robinson. The widespread success of their student-friendly Guide to Old English has encouraged many to look forward to their Beowulf as a second textbook, providing with the Guide a year-long course for the beginning student. Readers with this use of the text in mind will not be disappointed. Their original title, Beowulf: A Student's Edition, was dropped after the publication of George Jack's now-popular student edition, and it is with Jack's that the Mitchell and Robinson text will compete. In particular, Jack's running glossary has won the hearts of hosts of finger-cramped students. Mitchell and Robinson's edition, however, with a more traditionally presented text, has much to offer that Jack's does not, especially in its attempts to provide the student with a taste of the possible contexts of the poem.

The editors have throughout striven `to adopt a detached and impersonal presentation' (p. viii) of the text and the arguments surrounding it. Whenever their text requires some form of interpretation, in fitt division, emendation, or punctuation, the editors go to great lengths to explain their methods and to make the reader aware of the actual nature of the manuscript text. The introduction is equally careful, with personal commentary set aside in two specific sections. Rather than promoting certain opinions concerning the manuscript, the date and provenance of the poem, and its linguistic and structural intricacies, they provide in useful summary a sense of the many and varied opinions extant, emphasizing the fact that we can know so little absolutely. Even when they do present their own (differing) opinions concerning the relationship between 'pagan' and 'Christian' elements, and concerning the degree to which the poem may be seen as a contained work of artifice, the reader is left not so much with a prescribed way of understanding the poem as with the sense that there are as many ways of reading this complex work as there are readers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.