B. Hawk's Reviews > Tradition And Belief: Religious Writing in Late Anglo-Saxon England

Tradition And Belief by Clare A. Lees
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's review
Feb 02, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: homilies, history

As I read this book, I realized how much it felt like a precursor to much of the type of work I pursue on religious Old English literature. In many ways, in fact, the idea that stuck with me was Lees's formulation that the book may be seen as "Serving as a prolegomenon to the more detailed analysis of preaching as a traditional genre"--exactly what I see myself doing in my research. In this, the book is a great success.

Much of the thrust of this monograph is to break down the critical distaste and neglect of Old English religious prose, a process that has been ongoing for several decades but still deals with the shadow of poetry cast over the subject. Questioning traditional literary-historical scholarship, she brings in a variety of disciplines and methodologies, often invoking contemporary cultural theories throughout the Introduction and first chapter. While Lees provides a heavy critique of Anglo-Saxon studies, she also provides ways of fusing past scholarship with new approaches. The whole book does well to demonstrate this, although chapter 3-5 depict perhaps more of her own reliance on traditional literary close reading than would be expected after the first 45 pages of the book.

As a study that seeks to break down boundaries, Tradition and Belief is an excellent contribution to medieval studies generally. For anyone pursuing study of Old English religious prose, it is a necessary starting place.

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