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Latin Acrostic Poetry in Anglo-Saxon England: Reassessing the Contribution of John the Old Saxon

Gallagher, Robert (2017) Latin Acrostic Poetry in Anglo-Saxon England: Reassessing the Contribution of John the Old Saxon. Medium Ævum, 86 (2). pp. 249-275. ISSN 0025-8385. (KAR id:72335)


Other than charters, only a handful of Latin texts from Anglo-Saxon England can be conclusively dated to the ninth and early tenth centuries. Remarkably, of these, not one but two are sets of acrostic poetry in praise of West Saxon royalty: the first in honour of King Alfred and the second in honour of his grandson, Æthelstan. Modern understanding of these poems has been defined almost entirely by a seminal article by Michael Lapidge, who in 1980 argued that both are likely to be the work of a single individual, John the Old Saxon, one of the continental scholars named in Asser’s Life of King Alfred who had joined Alfred’s court in the 880s. Lapidge’s thesis is highly persuasive and, indeed, many scholars have accepted his interpretation, despite the direct challenge of Gernot Wieland in 2006. There are, however, important aspects of these verses that have hitherto been overlooked and which have significant implications for their authorship. In the present essay, therefore, I seek to reappraise Lapidge’s argument. I also wish to go beyond the question of authorial identity, to begin to consider these texts within a broader cultural context: comparatively speaking, why might this literary form have been so popular with Anglo-Saxon audiences at this point in time?

Item Type: Article
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: James Farley
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2019 15:41 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:02 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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