A History of Old English Literature
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This revised edition of A History of Old English Literature draws extensively on the latest scholarship to have evolved over the last decade. The text incorporates additional material throughout, including two new chapters on Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and incidental and marginal texts.

  • This revised edition responds to the renewed historicism in medieval studies
  • Provides wide-ranging coverage, including Anglo-Latin literature as well as non-canonical writings
  • Includes new chapters on manuscripts and on marginal and incidental texts
  • Incorporates expanded coverage of legal texts and scientific and scholastic texts, now treated in separate chapters
  • Demonstrates that the field of Anglo-Saxon studies is uniquely placed to contribute to current literary debates


R. D. Fulk is Class of 1964 Chancellor’s Professor of English at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is the author of, among others, The Beowulf Manuscript (2010) and An Introduction to Middle English (2012) and co-author or editor of Eight Old English Poems (2001), A Grammar of Old English, Vol. 2: Morphology (2011), Klaeber’s Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg ( 4th edition, 2008), and The Old English Canons of Theodore (2012).

Christopher M. Cain is an associate professor of English at Towson University in Towson, Maryland.  He has published on Old English and Anglo-Latin in Studies in Philology, JEGP, Review of English Studies, and Philological Quarterly, among others.  He is the co-editor (with Geoffrey Russom) of Studies in the History of the English Language III—Managing Chaos: Strategies for Identifying Change in English (2007) and is a contributor to The Year’s Work in Old English Studies.

Rachel Anderson, is Associate Professor of English at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan 


List of Illustrations vi

Preface to the First Edition (2003) vii

Preface to the Second Edition ix

Abbreviations x


Anglo-Saxon England and Its Literature: A Social History 1

1 The Chronology and Varieties of Old English Literature 42

2 Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts 58

3 Literature of the Alfredian Period 83

4 Homilies 112

5 Saints’ Legends (Rachel S. Anderson) 133

6 Biblical Literature 157

7 Liturgical and Devotional Texts 177

8 Legal Texts 211

9 Scientific and Scholastic Texts 227

10 Wisdom Literature and Lyric Poetry 241

11 Germanic Legend and Heroic Lay 278

12 Additions, Annotations, and Marginalia 329


Making Old English New: Anglo-Saxonism and the Cultural Work of Old English Literature 354

Works Cited 367

Index 481


"A new generation of students and their professors will undoubtedly apprecite the currency of what has proven to be a widely respected, comprehensive historical treatment of Old English literature." (Choice, 1 December 2013)

“Revised to incorporate the latest developments, A History of Old English Literature remains as indispensable as ever. Its scholarship is up to date, its range comprehensive, its writing animated by a critical intelligence throughout. A new chapter on manuscripts, for example, responds to the field's recent turn to material contexts, and that attention begets a second new chapter on marginal texts like charms and cryptograms. An expanded discussion of legal texts, an updated bibliography, and many localized revisions will benefit everyone from beginning students to seasoned scholars.”—Daniel Donoghue, Harvard University