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Anglo-Saxon Styles

Catherine E. Karkov, George Hardin Brown

Publication Year: 2003

Art historian Meyer Schapiro defined style as “the constant form—and sometimes the constant elements, qualities, and expression—in the art of an individual or group.” Today, style is frequently overlooked as a critical tool, with our interest instead resting with the personal, the ephemeral, and the fragmentary. Anglo-Saxon Styles demonstrates just how vital style remains in a methodological and theoretical prism, regardless of the object, individual, fragment, or process studied. Contributors from a variety of disciplines—including literature, art history, manuscript studies, philology, and more— consider the definitions and implications of style in Anglo-Saxon culture and in contemporary scholarship. They demonstrate that the idea of style as a “constant form” has its limitations, and that style is in fact the ordering of form, both verbal and visual. Anglo-Saxon texts and images carry meanings and express agendas, presenting us with paradoxes and riddles that require us to keep questioning the meanings of style.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Medieval Studies

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-10

In his classic paper “Style,” published in 1953, the art historian Meyer Schapiro defined style as “the constant form—and sometimes the constant elements, qualities, and expression—in the art of an individual or group.” This definition...

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1 Encrypted Visions:Style and Sense in the Anglo-Saxon Minor Arts,A.D. 400–900

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pp. 11-30

There is an apocryphal saying to the effect that iconographers believe everything is the same, and style historians think everything is different; and as far as Anglo-Saxon style history goes, there is some element of truth in the aphorism, as the radical difference between the art of early (A.D. 400–700) and...

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2 Rethinking the Ruthwell and Bewcastle Monuments:Some Deprecation of Style;Some Consideration of Form and Ideology

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pp. 31-68

When scholars commit themselves to working with style, all too often they do so by conferring on it a power it should not possess and cannot carry. One of several characteristically unsettling aspects of the now outdated but still fecund...

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3 Iuxta Morem Romanorum:Stone and Sculpture in Anglo-Saxon England

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pp. 69-100

For those who study the material culture of the Church in Anglo- Saxon England it is almost an article of faith that the art of working in stone (be it building or carving) was reintroduced into the region by the Christian Church during the...

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4 Beckwith Revisited:Some Ivory Carvings from Canterbury

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pp. 101-114

The material under consideration in this paper lacks the kind of associated information that allows scholars to address it in historical terms. The origins, dates, and purposes of the objects are unknown, and their histories before they were...

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5 Style in Late Anglo-Saxon England:Questions of Learning and Intention

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pp. 115-130

Everyone knows that medieval artists and scribes copied models. Eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon artists produced a few examples after surviving works. While a good amount of scholarship has been devoted to the study of their adaptation of iconographic motifs from earlier models, their stylistic responses to....

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6 House Style in the Scriptorium,Scribal Reality, and Scholarly Myth

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pp. 131-150

In the great palaeographical game of “Cluedo” the telltale clues that are painstakingly pieced together to reveal “whodunnit” are few and far between. Little surprise, then, if such clues are occasionally overconstrued or if, having once...

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7 Style and Layout of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts

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pp. 151-168

It has long puzzled me why very nearly all extant manuscripts containing Old English texts as their primary text are laid out in “long lines,” when extant Latin codices produced in England during the same period are found in long-line, double-column, and occasionally multiple-column formats....

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8 What We Talk about When We Talk about Style

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pp. 169-178

Reading someone from the outside reading our field can be a sobering and illuminating experience, especially if the outsider is not situated at too great a distance. It is best if she is close enough to earn our attention because of her general...

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9 “Either/And” as “Style” in Anglo-Saxon Christian Poetry

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pp. 179-200

Right from the beginning of their conversion to the faith that would make them scholars and thinkers, the Anglo-Saxon people possessed a contradictive polarity in their culture that serves as a hallmark of their understanding of reality as it was expressed in the arts and letters of the period. By...

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10Eating People Is Wrong:Funny Style in Andreas and its Analogues

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pp. 201-222

As the mystery at the center of the liturgy, consumption of the body and blood of a man is a sober miracle at the heart of Christianity— and so, one might think, no laughing matter. Still, the Old English poem Andreas repeatedly plays with this event in comic terms: as the saintly hero, Andrew, offers to the unrecognized Christ a heavenly loaf; as a story of pagans who make a habit...

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11Aldhelm’s Jewel Tones:Latin Colors through Anglo-Saxon Eyes

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pp. 223-238

Color terms are among the most frequently studied lexical fields in modern languages. The study of color is attractive to linguists and cognitive psychologists because the semantics of the description of objects goes to the heart of the relationship between thought and language. A lack of live witnesses to interview....

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12The Discreet Charm of the Old English Weak Adjective

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pp. 239-252

Poor little weak adjective—dowdy, belittled, scorned: how she must have trembled to see her name displayed in a conference program. Long invisible, badly roughed up by Hickes, Elstob, and the early Bosworth, she had no name until...

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13Rhythm and Alliteration:Styles of Ælfric’s Prose up to the Lives of Saints

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pp. 253-270

Style is a topic that interests many but allows few to practice it as a distinct field with its own objects of inquiry, methodology, and genealogy of specialists. Perhaps style is considered too diffuse for an established area of study in most disciplines, but for those Anglo- Saxonists who hope to consider the question...

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14Both Style and Substance:The Case for Cynewulf

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pp. 271-306

As one of the very few named Anglo-Saxon poets whose vernacular work has survived, Cynewulf has attracted much critical comment over a long period of time.1 The ongoing fascination with Cynewulf’s work stems in part from the way in which it seems to blend so many areas of Anglo-Saxon culture...


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pp. 307-309


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pp. 311-318

Index of Manuscripts Cited

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pp. 319-320

E-ISBN-13: 9780791486146
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791458693
Print-ISBN-10: 0791458695

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 42 b/w photographs, 1 map, 9 figures
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: SUNY series in Medieval Studies

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • English language -- Old English, ca. 450-1100 -- Style.
  • Manuscripts, English (Old).
  • Art, Anglo-Saxon.
  • Anglo-Saxons.
  • England -- Civilization -- To 1066.
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