Anglo-Saxonism in nineteenth-century poetry

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This article essays the first survey of nineteenth-century poetry that imitates, alludes to, or draws on, theories about Anglo-Saxon language and/or literature. Criticism has so far overlooked such a field as forming a distinct body of literature with shared preoccupations and influences, although some previous attention has been paid to the Anglo-Saxonism of individual poets or texts. This essay, then, provides the first scoping exercise of the extent and limits of a field one could term nineteenth-century Anglo-Saxonist poetry. This corpus is briefly contextualized within the wider field of Anglo-Saxonist literature, itself an important sub-genre of medievalism and medievalist literature. A possible fourfold typology is offered as a framework within which further study might be continued. Some consideration is briefly paid to the use of Anglo-Saxon in the poetry of William Wordsworth, Walter Scott, Alfred Tennyson, Lewis Carroll, William Barnes, William Morris, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. The importance of antiquarianism and philology is emphasized, with passing reference made to writers such as Sharon Turner, George Marsh, and to the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The essay addresses a neglected topic in the broader field of the reception of the Middle Ages, and in particular the recovery and reception of Anglo-Saxon, or Old English language and poetry. The essay concludes by suggesting that new narrative models of literary history made be required to accommodate the concept of ‘nineteenth-century Anglo-Saxon poetry’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-369
JournalLiterature Compass
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2010


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