Birds in Medieval English Poetry
Title Details

269 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

6 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Nature and Environment in the Middle Ages

Imprint: D.S.Brewer

Birds in Medieval English Poetry

Metaphors, Realities, Transformations

by Michael J. Warren

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Author
  • Reviews
First full-length study of birds and their metamorphoses as treated in a wide range of medieval poetry, from the Anglo-Saxons to Chaucer and Gower.
Birds featured in many aspects of medieval people's lives, not least in their poetry. But despite their familiar presence in literary culture, it is still often assumed that these representations have little to do with the real natural world. By attending to the ways in which birds were actually observed and experienced, this book aims to offer new perspectives on how and why they were meaningful in five major poems -- The Seafarer, the Exeter Book Riddles, The Owl and the Nightingale, The Parliament of Fowls and Confessio Amantis. In a consideration of sources from Isidore of Seville and Anglo-Saxon place-names to animal-sound word lists and Bartholomew the Englishman, the author shows how ornithological truth and knowledge are integral to our understandings of his chosen poems. Birds, he argues, are relevant to the medieval mind because their unique properties align them with important religious and secular themes: seabirds that inspire the forlorn Anglo-Saxon pilgrim; unnamed species that confound riddling taxonomies; a belligerent owl who speaks out against unflattering literary portraits. In these poems, human actions and perceptions are deeply affected by the remarkable flights and voices of birds.

MICHAEL J. WARREN is currently Visiting Lecturer at Royal Holloway University, where he gained his PhD.
Introduction
Native Foreigners: Migrating Seabirds and the Pelagic Soul in The Seafarer
Avian Pedagogies: Wondering with Birds in the Exeter Book Riddles
A Bird's Worth: Mis-Representing Owls in The Owl and the Nightingale
'Kek Kek': Translating Birds in The Parliament of Fowls
Birds' Form: Enabling Desire and Identities in Confessio Amantis
Epilogue
Glossary: Old and Middle English bird names
Bibliography

MICHAEL J. WARREN is currently Visiting Lecturer at Royal Holloway University, where he gained his PhD.

"In his soaring exploration of the avian, Warren urges us to look beyond the human preoccupations of medieval poetry to see how writers have persistently attempted to...bridge the gap between human and bird, at least temporarily, by inviting us to listen more closely to the melody those 'smale foweles' make all around us." TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
"Warren's handling of medieval material in a way that reminds us of both the innate value of the species we run the risk of destroying and the dangers of human exceptionalism is a welcome and, moreover, a significant contribution to the field." MEDIUM ÆVUM
"[I]t is not a bad thing for a book to leave readers wanting more when the readings are this perspicacious. ...Birds in Middle English Poetry contributes significantly to ecocritical, literary, and medieval studies. It shows that asking new questions of familiar texts reveals exciting insights into how medieval people understood their natural environment and how allegory operates. It invites us to remember the dynamic importance of birds in the Anthropocene and concludes with a generous glossary of bird names that will facilitate further study." STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER
"Combining ornithological and literary history, this book is an important contribution to environmental history and ecocriticism, unpacking the complex relationships between human and other creatures and their shared environments." PARERGON
"Birds in Medieval English Poetry is a valiant attempt at focussing exclusively on the birds and their special role within the medieval discourse on animals and recommended reading for all interested in matters animal." ANGLIA
"[B]y thinking with actual birds-by suggesting that the birds in these texts might be every bit as real and variable as the human characters-Warren complicates our sense of both the real and the textual. Each is ambiguous, paradoxical, and strange, each interacting unpredictably to tell us something new about the shared world of humans and birds." Speculum

Hardcover

9781843845089

October 2018

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9781787443389

October 2018

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Paperback

9781843845911

March 2021

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Title Details

269 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

6 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Nature and Environment in the Middle Ages

Imprint: D.S.Brewer