Between Languages: The Uncooperative Text in Early Welsh and Old English Nature Poetry

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Welsh and Old English nature poetry show important similarities in both mood and imagery. However, modern critics have done both a disservice by viewing each too narrowly within what Higley calls the "anglocentric tradition." Study of Old English has suffered from its isolation from the Welsh, in particular from the lessons to be learned from its ambiguous, i.e., "uncooperative" qualities. Taking an inclusive approach that extends from phonology to imagery, her book examines poems from both traditions and achieves new and persuasive readings. Between Languages attempts to bring obscure and moving poems into a wider critical orbit, and it offers new translations of The Seafarer, Maxims II, and Wulf and Eadwacer among the English and The Sick Man of Abercuawg, Song of the Old Man, and various gnomic and wisdom poems among the Welsh, including one of the few complete English translations in this century of a vatic poem from The Book of Taliesin.

Welsh and Old English poetry, moreover, have often been described as like or different from each other. Higley breaks this cycle of mutual marginalization with theoretically innovative discussions of each text on its own merits. She joins scholars like Allen Frantzen, Lee Patterson, and Suzanne Fleischmann in pointing out that medievalists have, to their own peril, failed to avail themselves of the subtle resources of postmodern criticism.

Between Languages makes accessible to a modern audience the traditions of Welsh and Old English poetry, which are at once parallel, unique, and mutually informative, and at the same time distinct from poetry since the eighteenth century.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Higley’s scholarship is of the first order in three demanding specialities: Celtic studies (including secondary works in modern Welsh), Old English studies, and postmodern criticism. Between Languages is very well organized and written in a clear and unpretentious style.”
—Alexandra Hennessey Olsen, University of Denver
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271008769
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1993
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 328
  • Lexile: 1560L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Lynn Higley is Associate Professor of English at the University of Rochester.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 The Natural Analogy: Difficulties, Gaps, and Irritations 15
2 Getting Around the Cipher: Translating the Uncooperative Text 29
3 Metrical and Stylistic Analyses 57
4 Grappling with the Gnomic: Modern and Medieval Concepts of Image and Connection 97
5 The Vanishing Point: Deixis and Conjunction 119
6 The Third Thing: Context as Connection in Gnomic and Nature Poetry 149
7 Intentional Difficulty in Early Welsh Poetry 187
8 Clarity and Obscurity in Old English Poetry 221
Afterword: Between Worlds 251
Appendix: Selected Texts and Translations 255
1 The Seafarer 256
2 The Sick Man (Leper) of Abercuawg 263
3 The Song of the Old Man 268
Gnomes and Nature Poems
4 Maxims II 271
5 Let the Cock's Comb Be Red 275
6 Keen the Wind 278
7 Wulf and Eadwacer 282
8 Angar Kyfyndawt 284
Textual Commentary 293
Name and Title Index 303
Subject Index 310
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