In response to the Goblin’s desire for some background reading recommendations, may I recommend these five books:
* Frank Stenton, Anglo Saxon England. This is *the* book. It’s about fifty years old, is a veritable brick (better for bashing people with than most bibles), covers names and dates in meticulous detail. If you have trouble staying awake while reading Lord of the Rings, this book is not for you.
* Edward James, Britain in the First Millenium (also covers the later Celtic period). A relatively new book, and not a Canonical Great by any means. However, it’s engaging, clearly laid out, and in accessible language. I road-tested it on my father and he found it good, ergo, it will probably not put noobs to sleep. One caveat: his ideas about the dating of Beowulf are very unconventional.
* Primary Texts: any of the student editions by Elaine Treharne- sometimes in conjunction with others, sometimes not. For an example, Old and Middle English c.890-c.1400 : an anthology ed. Elaine Treharne, some of which is reprinted in Old and Middle English Poetry, ed Duncan Wu (based on the Treharne ed.). Treharne’s editions are lovely, with parallel translations which are broken up into lines but don’t sacrifice accuracy for the sake of modern poetics. They’re also clearly laid out and simply introduced.
* To continue with the Treharne fangirling, I cannot possibly over-recommend Treharne’s introductory guide to Old and Middle English literature- Readings in Medieval Texts: Interpreting Old and Middle English Literature ed Treharne and Johnson (which has a good intro essay on the Gawain poet, incidentally). The essays are simple, clear, and provide broad introductions to the most common scholarly approaches in the field.
* Paul E. Szarmach, Old English Prose: Basic Readings. The level of these essays is considerably more advanced than the Treharne introductions, and they provide original scholarship rather than simply background readings. However, if there’s something awesome in Anglo-Saxon prose that isn’t covered in this book, I have yet to find it.
On a completely unrelated note: OMG SQUEE EMMA OF NORMANDY IS, LYKE, TOTALLY AWESOME. *fangirls a little bit* Since I’ve discovered that the best way for me to internalise Boy History is by writing character-based narratives, expect a special feature on Queen Emma as soon as my sleep cycle rights itself. Today, in the middle of writing a sentence about AEthelred and Thorkell the Tall, I apparently got up or fell off my seat and fell sound asleep, sprawled across the library floor and partly under the table, for around half an hour.