Alexander’s A History of Old English Literature is an outstanding introduction to a difficult period of literary history. It provides a simple historical and cultural context for the study of the Anglo-Saxons, and offers a history, illustrated by many passages in translation, of the whole of the literature that survives. While it contains solid, insightful and sensible criticism of individual literary works, its overall historical organization suggests that Old English literature was created in a cultural context that changed from one century to another. Although its intentions are scholarly, this history of Old English literature is also an introduction, assuming little knowledge of this period or its surviving products, and none of its language. This edition has been revised and rewritten throughout, and offers a new preface as well as an updated bibliography.
“Old English literature has long been the preserve of scholars and specialists. Michael Alexander’s A History of Old English Literature now fills a major gap by introducing both prose and poetry, literature and history, in an accessible style which communicates his own lifelong love of the subject. Especially attractive are the translations, at once accurate and colloquial, which disperse the antiquarian miasma hanging round the subject while keeping the vital touch of strangeness. Alexander’s book is now the best and most complete one-volume guide to the whole of Old English, oldest and best-recorded of the vernaculars of Dark Age Europe.” — Tom Shippey, St. Louis University
“A lucid, eminently readable survey, altogether a cosy hearth-companion.” — Margaret Connolly, University College Cork