Imagining the Anglo-Saxon Past

December 2000
1 black and white illustrations
174 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9780859915885
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
BISAC LIT004120, REL015000

Imagining the Anglo-Saxon Past

The Search for Anglo-Saxon Paganism and Anglo-Saxon Trial by Jury

Eric Gerald Stanley

Decisive argument on the issues under review by one of the leading Anglo-Saxon scholars.
E.G. Stanley has an international reputation as a leading Anglo-Saxonist, and his perceptive and original contributions to the field continue to be sought after by Anglo-Saxon scholars. The two topics included in this book are just such studies. `The Search for Anglo-Saxon Paganism' traces an attitude among writers on Anglo-Saxon literature which exalts whatever is primitive and supposedly pagan or crypto-pagan in the surviving Old English texts of the early Christian middle ages, as demonstrated in the work of such luminaries as Jacob Grimm and J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as a swarm of minor figures. Students of Old English literature will find some of their cherished views on individual texts challenged in the process of tracing them to their foundations; but the book has wider implications as a case-history of how scholarly predilection becomes prejudice and orthodoxy. Although written some years ago, the arguments, with some updates and corrections, remain fresh and invigorating.
The second part of the book deals with the search for trial by jury among the Anglo-Saxons. Its beginnings have been sought by some in Germanic legal institutions, by others in institutions brought in by King Alfred to whom much that is great and good in the governance of England was ascribed. The author argues that the idealism that characterized advocates of political and legal reform guided them to a few facts about the origin of jury and to many simplifications and errors in which the Anglo-Saxons appeared as shining forerunners.
E.G. STANLEY is Professor Emeritus of Anglo-Saxon, University of Oxford.

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Stanley casts a suspicious eye on the romanticised constructs of previous writers and revisitis the sources to examine what is actually present in the materials themselves. SPECULUM Appealingly edited, meticulously researched... An important contribution [to the subject]. ANGLIA