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The Sagas of Icelanders are enduring stories from Viking-age Iceland filled with love and romance, battles and feuds, tragedy and comedy. Yet these tales are little read today, even by lovers of literature. The culture and history of the people depicted in the Sagas are often unfamiliar to the modern reader, though the audience for whom the tales were intended would have had an intimate understanding of the material. This text introduces the modern reader to the daily lives and material culture of the Vikings. Topics covered include religion, housing, social customs, the settlement of disputes, and the early history of Iceland. Issues of dispute among scholars, such as the nature of settlement and the division of land, are addressed in the text.


“Provides information on the daily lives, culture, history, and society of the Icelanders in a clear and well-structured fashion that invites and informs modern readers. The 13 chapters are concise, and clearly laid out sections allow readers to review specific themes or read the work as a whole. Using both literary and archaeological sources, Short presents a detailed, succinct, and informative overview of Icelanders of the saga age as well as the sagas themselves. Readers are enticed into further exploration of Viking–age Iceland with the inclusion of detailed chapter notes and recommendations for further readings. This useful introduction to the Viking age is an essential companion to the medieval narratives.... The author’s in-depth research makes this a compelling, informative addition to almost any collection dealing with the sagas or the Viking age. Highly recommended. General and academic collections, all levels.”—Choice


“Informative...Short has done an excellent job...most interesting...I unhesitatingly recommend this book to anyone with even a shred of interest in the Viking era...faultless...tells a coherent story...this is a book stuffed full of interesting material for anyone interested in the sagas, the Viking age, the Icelandic Commonwealth, and early contact with the New World. Highly recommended”—Armed and Dangerous


“A warning to readers. You may find you need to hide your copy of this book...chapters on pretty much all aspects of daily life.... You don’t need to be a specialist in anthropology or history to understand...illustrated with numerous black and white photographs of Iceland and Icelandic artifacts, drawings and maps...enjoyed it very much. You’ve got to hand it to McFarland as they publish some fascinating books”—Green Man Review


“A perfect companion or an introduction to reading the sagas...very easy to read, and covers many topics in the life of the people in Iceland during those times...covers religion, laws, feuds, home life, and the settlement, among other topics...truly gives you an overview of what everyday life was like...[Short’s] research is flawless, and his sources are well-documented...bibliography is impressive...very well-indexed...entertaining, easy-to-read and very educational”—Lögberg-Heimskringla


“Well-structured, easily understandable and practical...digs deep into a wide range of archaeological and literary sources...presents readers with a realistic account of life in the saga age...excellent...thorough and accurate...interesting...especially helpful”—Iceland Review


“Riveting exploration...a solid addition”—Midwest Book Review


“Comprehensive but accessible history.... All aspects of society are covered including laws, conflict, domestic work, agriculture, gender roles, trade and production. Blending literature, legal codes, chronicles and archaeology and embellishing them with pictures, many of which he took himself. Short’s book is a perfect companion to the study of the Icelandic sagas”—Reference and Research Book News

From one of our most eminent and accessible literary critics, a groundbreaking account of how the Greek and Roman classics forged Shakespeare’s imagination

Ben Jonson famously accused Shakespeare of having “small Latin and less Greek.” But he was exaggerating. Shakespeare was steeped in the classics. Shaped by his grammar school education in Roman literature, history, and rhetoric, he moved to London, a city that modeled itself on ancient Rome. He worked in a theatrical profession that had inherited the conventions and forms of classical drama, and he read deeply in Ovid, Virgil, and Seneca. In a book of extraordinary range, acclaimed literary critic and biographer Jonathan Bate, one of the world’s leading authorities on Shakespeare, offers groundbreaking insights into how, perhaps more than any other influence, the classics made Shakespeare the writer he became.

Revealing in new depth the influence of Cicero and Horace on Shakespeare and finding new links between him and classical traditions, ranging from myths and magic to monuments and politics, Bate offers striking new readings of a wide array of the plays and poems. At the heart of the book is an argument that Shakespeare’s supreme valuation of the force of imagination was honed by the classical tradition and designed as a defense of poetry and theater in a hostile world of emergent Puritanism.

Rounded off with a fascinating account of how Shakespeare became our modern classic and has ended up playing much the same role for us as the Greek and Roman classics did for him, How the Classics Made Shakespeare combines stylistic brilliance, accessibility, and scholarship, demonstrating why Jonathan Bate is one of our most eminent and readable literary critics.

It has been said that the difference between and language and a dialect is that a language is a dialect with an army. Both the act of translation and bilingualism are steeped in a tension between surrender and conquest, yielding conscious and unconscious effects on language. First published in 2002, Abdelfattah Kilito's Thou Shall Not Speak My Language explores this tension in his address of the dynamics of literary influence and canon formation within the Arabic literary tradition. As one of the Arab world's most original and provocative literary critics, Kilito challenges the reader to reexamine contemporary notions of translation, bilingualism, postcoloniality, and the discipline of comparative literature. Wail S. Hassan's superb translation makes Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language available to an English audience for the first time, capturing the charm and elegance of the original in a chaste and seemingly effortless style. At the center of Kilito's work, is his insistence on the ethics of translation. He explores the effects of translation on the genres of poetry, narrative prose, and philosophy. Kilito highlights the problem of cultural translation as an interpretive process, and as an essential element of comparative literary studies. In close readings of al-Jahiz, Ibn Rushd, al-Saffar, and al-Shidyaq, among others, he traces the shifts in attitude toward language and translation from the centuries of Arab cultural ascendancy to the contemporary period, interrogating along the way how the dynamics of power mediate literary encounters across cultural, linguistic, and political lines.
England during the Middle Ages was at the forefront of European antisemitism. It was in medieval Norwich that the notorious "blood libel" was first introduced when a resident accused the city's Jewish leaders of abducting and ritually murdering a local boy. England also enforced legislation demanding that Jews wear a badge of infamy, and in 1290, it became the first European nation to expel forcibly all of its Jewish residents. In The Accommodated Jew, Kathy Lavezzo rethinks the complex and contradictory relation between England’s rejection of "the Jew" and the centrality of Jews to classic English literature. Drawing on literary, historical, and cartographic texts, she charts an entangled Jewish imaginative presence in English culture. In a sweeping view that extends from the Anglo-Saxon period to the late seventeenth century, Lavezzo tracks how English writers from Bede to Milton imagine Jews via buildings—tombs, latrines and especially houses—that support fantasies of exile. Epitomizing this trope is the blood libel and its implication that Jews cannot be accommodated in England because of the anti-Christian violence they allegedly perform in their homes. In the Croxton Play of the Sacrament, Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta, and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, the Jewish house not only serves as a lethal trap but also as the site of an emerging bourgeoisie incompatible with Christian pieties. Lavezzo reveals the central place of "the Jew" in the slow process by which a Christian "nation of shopkeepers" negotiated their relationship to the urban capitalist sensibility they came to embrace and embody. In the book’s epilogue, she advances her inquiry into Victorian England and the relationship between Charles Dickens (whose Fagin is the second most infamous Jew in English literature after Shylock) and the Jewish couple that purchased his London home, Tavistock House, showing how far relations between gentiles and Jews in England had (and had not) evolved.
Frederick Klaeber's Beowulf has long been the standard edition for study by students and advanced scholars alike. Its wide-ranging coverage of scholarship, its comprehensive philological aids, and its exceptionally thorough notes and glossary have ensured its continued use in spite of the fact that the book has remained largely unaltered since 1936. The fourth edition has been prepared with the aim of updating the scholarship while preserving the aspects of Klaeber's work that have made it useful to students of literature, linguists, historians, folklorists, manuscript specialists, archaeologists, and theorists of culture.

A revised Introduction and Commentary incorporates the vast store of scholarship on Beowulf that has appeared since 1950. It brings readers up to date on areas of scholarship that have been controversial since the last edition, including the construction of the unique manuscript and views on the poem's date and unity of composition. The lightly revised text incorporates the best textual criticism of the intervening years, and the expanded Commentary furnishes detailed bibliographic guidance to discussion of textual cruces, as well as to modern and contemporary critical concerns. Aids to pronunciation have been added to the text, and advances in the study of the poem's language are addressed throughout. Readers will find that the book remains recognizably Klaeber's work, but with altered and added features designed to render it as useful today as it has ever been.

A brilliant new anthology that shows how fiction was reinvented in the twelfth century after an absence of hundreds of years. Essential for all students of medieval literature, Early Fiction in England includes extracts by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace, Marie de France, Chaucer and many others, in new translations and with illuminating introductions.

Before the twelfth century, fiction had completely disappeared in Europe. In this important and provocative book, Laura Ashe shows how English writers brought it back, composing new tales about King Arthur, his knights and other heroes and heroines in Latin, French and English. Why did fiction disappear, and why did it come to life again to establish itself the dominant form of literature ever since? And what do we even mean by the term 'fiction'? Gathering extracts from the most important texts of the period by Wace, Marie de France, Chaucer and others, this volume offers an absorbing and surprising introduction to the earliest fiction in England.

The anthology includes a general introduction by Laura Ashe, introductions to each extract, explanatory notes and other useful editorial materials. All French and Latin texts have been newly translated, while Middle English texts include helpful glosses.

Laura Ashe is a University Lecturer in English and Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford. Her first book Fiction and History in England, 1066-1200 (Cambridge University Press, 2007) has been followed by numerous articles and edited collections; she is now writing the newOxford English Literary History vol. 1: 1000-1350 (Oxford University Press).

In the early twentieth century, marriage manuals sought to link marital sex to the progress of civilization, searching for the history of what they considered to be normal sexuality. In Heterosyncrasies, Karma Lochrie looks to the foundation of modern society in the Middle Ages to undertake a profound questioning of the heterosexuality of that history. Lochrie begins this provocative rethinking of sexuality by dismantling the very idea of normal through a study of the development of statistics in the nineteenth century. She then intervenes in contemporary debates about queer versus ostensibly stable heterosexual social and sexual categories by exposing the "heterosyncratic" organization of sexuality in the Middle Ages and by clarifying the dubious contribution that the concept of normality has made to the construction of sexuality. In medieval texts from the letters of Heloise to Lollard heretical attacks on the Church, to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, medical discourse surrounding the clitoris, and finally the Amazons of medieval myth, Lochrie focuses on female sexuality in the Middle Ages in an effort to discern a less binary, more diversified understanding of it. Lochrie demonstrates how the medieval categories of natural and unnatural were distinctly different from our modern categories of normal and abnormal. In her work we see how abandoning heteronormativity as a medieval organizer of sexualities profoundly changes the way we understand all sexualities - past, present, and possibly even future. Heterosyncrasies is a milestone in the study of sexual identity politics, revealing not only how presumptions of normality obscure our understanding of the past, but also how these beliefs affect our present-day laws, society, and daily life.
Over the past decade, scholars have vigorously reconsidered the history of Orientalism, and though Edward Said's hugely influential work remains a touchstone of the discussion, Karla Mallette notes, it can no longer be taken as the final word on Western perceptions of the Islamic East. The French and British Orientalisms that Said studied in particular were shaped by the French and British colonial projects in Muslim regions; nations that did not have such investments in the Middle East generated significantly different perceptions of Islamic and Arabic culture.

European Modernity and the Arab Mediterranean examines Orientalist philological scholarship of southern Europe produced between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth century. In Italy, Spain, and Malta, Mallette argues, a regional history of Arab occupation during the Middle Ages gave scholars a focus different from that of their northern European colleagues; in studying the Arab world, they were not so much looking on a distant and radically different history as seeking to reconstruct the past of their own nations. She demonstrates that in specific instances, Orientalists wrote their nations' Arab history as the origin of modern national identity, depicting Islamic thought not as exterior to European modernity but rather as formative of and central to it.

Joining comparative insights to the analytic strategies and historical genius of philology, Mallette ranges from the complex manuscript history of the Thousand and One Nights to the invention of the Maltese language and Spanish scholarship on Dante and Islam. Throughout, she reveals the profound influences Arab and Islamic traditions have had on the development of modern European culture. European Modernity and the Arab Mediterranean is an engaging study that sheds new light on the history of Orientalism, the future of philology, and the postcolonial Middle Ages.
Slavery appears as a figurative construct during the English revolution of the mid-seventeenth century, and again in the American and French revolutions, when radicals represent their treatment as a form of political slavery. What, if anything, does figurative, political slavery have to do with transatlantic slavery? In Arbitrary Rule, Mary Nyquist explores connections between political and chattel slavery by excavating the tradition of Western political thought that justifies actively opposing tyranny. She argues that as powerful rhetorical and conceptual constructs, Greco-Roman political liberty and slavery reemerge at the time of early modern Eurocolonial expansion; they help to create racialized “free” national identities and their “unfree” counterparts in non-European nations represented as inhabiting an earlier, privative age. Arbitrary Rule is the first book to tackle political slavery’s discursive complexity, engaging Eurocolonialism, political philosophy, and literary studies, areas of study too often kept apart. Nyquist proceeds through analyses not only of texts that are canonical in political thought—by Aristotle, Cicero, Hobbes, and Locke—but also of literary works by Euripides, Buchanan, Vondel, Montaigne, and Milton, together with a variety of colonialist and political writings, with special emphasis on tracts written during the English revolution. She illustrates how “antityranny discourse,” which originated in democratic Athens, was adopted by republican Rome, and revived in early modern Western Europe, provided members of a “free” community with a means of protesting a threatened reduction of privileges or of consolidating a collective, political identity. Its semantic complexity, however, also enabled it to legitimize racialized enslavement and imperial expansion.
Throughout, Nyquist demonstrates how principles relating to political slavery and tyranny are bound up with a Roman jurisprudential doctrine that sanctions the power of life and death held by the slaveholder over slaves and, by extension, the state, its representatives, or its laws over its citizenry.
The first full commentary on Piers Plowman since the late nineteenth century is inaugurated with the publication of the first two of its five projected volumes.

The detailed and wide-ranging Penn Commentary places the allegorical dream-vision of Piers Plowman within the literary, historical, social, and intellectual contexts of late medieval England, and within the long history of critical interpretation of the poem, assessing past scholarship while offering original materials and insights throughout. The authors' line-by-line, section by section, and passus by passus commentary on all three versions of the poem and on the stages of its multiple revisions reveals new aspects of the poem's meaning while assessing and summarizing a complex and often divisive scholarly tradition. The volumes offer an up-to-date, original, and open-ended guide to a poem whose engagement in its social world is unrivaled in English literature, and whose literary, religious, and intellectual accomplishments are uniquely powerful.

The Penn Commentary is designed to be equally useful to readers of the A, B, or C texts of the poem. It is geared to readers eager to have detailed experience of Piers Plowman and other medieval literature, possessing some basic knowledge of Middle English language and literature, and interested in pondering further the particularly difficult relationships to both that this poem possesses. Others, with interest in poetry of all periods, will find the extended and detailed commentary useful precisely because it does not seek to avoid the poem's challenges but seeks instead to provoke thought about its intricacy and poetic achievements.

Andrew Galloway's Volume 1 treats the poem's first vision, from the Prologue through Passus 4, in all three versions, accepting the C text as the poet's final word but excavating downward through the earlier B and A texts. Stephen Barney's volume completes the framework for the commentary, dealing with the final three passûs of the poem, extant only in the B and C versions. Subsequent volumes will be the work of Ralph Hanna, Traugott Lawler, and Anne Middleton.

Overall, The Penn Commentary on Piers Plowman marks a new stage of concentrated yet wide-ranging attention to a text whose repeated revisions and literary and intellectual complexity make it both an elusive object of inquiry and a literary work whose richness has long deserved the capacious and minutely detailed treatment that only a full commentary can allow. Perhaps no poem in English appeals more than Piers Plowman to those readers who understand Yeats's "fascination with things difficult," yet The Penn Commentary will enable generations of readers to share in the pleasures and challenges of experiencing, engaging with, and trying to elucidate the difficulties of one of the towering achievements of English literature.
"A work of enormous importance. Of all the poems of the English Middle Ages, Piers Plowman is the one that most deserves and needs annotation of the fullest and best possible kind, both because it is a text of unrivaled literary quality and interest, and because it is characteristically knotty and deploys a language of unusual richness, density, and allusiveness. Much of this allusiveness is to areas of learning that are not at every modern reader's fingertips. A particular difficulty is the existence of the poem in three authorial versions of almost desperate complexity. It will be an immense triumph to have a commentary which elucidates their relationships as a matter of policy and not simply as the result of conflating annotation on the different versions."—Derek Pearsall

The first full commentary on Piers Plowman since the late nineteenth century is inaugurated with the publication of the first two of its five projected volumes.

The detailed and wide-ranging Penn Commentary places the allegorical dream-vision of Piers Plowman within the literary, historical, social, and intellectual contexts of late medieval England, and within the long history of critical interpretation of the poem, assessing past scholarship while offering original materials and insights throughout. The authors' line-by-line, section by section, and passus by passus commentary on all three versions of the poem and on the stages of its multiple revisions reveals new aspects of the poem's meaning while assessing and summarizing a complex and often divisive scholarly tradition. The volumes offer an up-to-date, original, and open-ended guide to a poem whose engagement in its social world is unrivaled in English literature, and whose literary, religious, and intellectual accomplishments are uniquely powerful.

The Penn Commentary is designed to be equally useful to readers of the A, B, or C texts of the poem. It is geared to readers eager to have detailed experience of Piers Plowman and other medieval literature, possessing some basic knowledge of Middle English language and literature, and interested in pondering further the particularly difficult relationships to both that this poem possesses. Others, with interest in poetry of all periods, will find the extended and detailed commentary useful precisely because it does not seek to avoid the poem's challenges but seeks instead to provoke thought about its intricacy and poetic achievements.

Andrew Galloway's Volume 1 treats the poem's first vision, from the Prologue through Passus 4, in all three versions, accepting the C text as the poet's final word but excavating downward through the earlier B and A texts. Stephen Barney's volume completes the framework for the commentary, dealing with the final three passûs of the poem, extant only in the B and C versions. Subsequent volumes will be the work of Ralph Hanna, Traugott Lawler, and Anne Middleton.

Overall, The Penn Commentary on Piers Plowman marks a new stage of concentrated yet wide-ranging attention to a text whose repeated revisions and literary and intellectual complexity make it both an elusive object of inquiry and a literary work whose richness has long deserved the capacious and minutely detailed treatment that only a full commentary can allow. Perhaps no poem in English appeals more than Piers Plowman to those readers who understand Yeats's "fascination with things difficult," yet The Penn Commentary will enable generations of readers to share in the pleasures and challenges of experiencing, engaging with, and trying to elucidate the difficulties of one of the towering achievements of English literature.

Andrew Galloway is Professor of English and Medieval Studies at Cornell University.

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