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  • Old English Philology: Studies in Honour of R. D. Fulk ed. by Leonard Neidorf, Rafael J. Pascual, and Tom Shippey
  • Carole Hough
Old English Philology: Studies in Honour of R. D. Fulk. Edited by Leonard Neidorf, Rafael J. Pascual, and Tom Shippey. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2016. Pp. x + 427. $99.

Like many Festschrifts, this volume covers a diverse range of topics, so that few people besides a reviewer will be motivated to read it from beginning to end. Unlike many Festschrifts, however, it contains some outstanding scholarship, significantly advancing the current state of knowledge and pioneering important new methodologies. As Neidorf explains in the Introduction, the honorand's own expertise extends to an unusually wide range of the technical disciplines that underpin philological research, and it is thus appropriate for a similar range to be reflected in the volume presented to him.

There is an internal logic to the order of the twenty essays, but readers are left to work it out for themselves, since the contributions are neither grouped into sections nor outlined within the Introduction. The first seven focus on metrical issues, while those following move on to syntax, semantics, etymology, lexis, authorship, palaeography, and textual criticism. Most deal with Old English poetry, but prose and later poetry are also skilfully handled, as in Stefan Jurasinski's essay on the late Old English Handbook for the Use of a Confessor and Donka Minkova's on the Middle English Poema Morale. The former highlights potential connections with Archbishop Wulfstan of York; the latter focuses on metrical resolution.

Like Minkova, a number of contributors take the honorand's own work as their starting point. The opening essay by Rafael J. Pascual points out that the controversy surrounding the chronological implications of Fulk's 1992 book A History of Old English Meter diverted attention from his views on metrical theory, including [End Page 580] his criticisms of A. J. Bliss's system. Pascual makes a strenuous attempt to redress the situation by clarifying Fulk's support for Eduard Sievers's views as against the innovations proposed by Bliss. In the following essay, Thomas Cable takes up the baton by expanding on Fulk's insights into the metrical role of syllable length, after which Leonard Neidorf tests Fulk's view that unmetrical lines are a sign of scribal error. With characteristic thoroughness and rigor, he counters the argument that "some Old English poets might have deliberately composed unmetrical verses" (p. 53) by analyzing all unmetrical verses in poems extant in more than one copy. In each case, comparison with parallel texts shows the unmetrical readings to be inaccurate, providing a strong endorsement of Fulk's conclusions.

Bliss's approach to undisplaced finite verbs bearing alliterative stress is also critiqued by Mark Griffith, who proposes a new solution to this apparent violation of the metrical-grammatical system. Identifying a high proportion of particularly common verbs among the nonalliterating finites, he argues that poets distinguished according to register, with poetic verbs bearing alliteration in verse positions where ordinary verbs would not. The evidence is persuasive, not only appearing to solve one of the thorniest problems in Old English metrics, but also highlighting the contribution of stylistics to the rules of alliterative composition and indicating that the ranking system in Old English poetry originated with verbs rather than with nouns and adjectives. Later in the volume, Dennis Cronan too discusses poetic vocabulary, drawing on theories of semantics and semiotics to provide a rich and perceptive analysis of the "linguistic code for poetry" (p. 268).

Several contributions focus on Beowulf. Jun Terasawa identifies yet another exceptional feature of the poem, in that indicative forms appear in place of the subjunctive for metrical reasons only, whereas other poets utilize the same stratagem for a wider range of reasons. Rory Naismith provides a useful survey of research on the significance of treasure in the poem, drawing parallels between the concept of exchange and the language of Anglo-Saxon royal diplomas. Geoffrey Russom continues his previous work on the "word-foot theory of Old English meter" (p. 83) through analysis of a variety of verse types used by the Beowulf...


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