- Approaches to Teaching the Middle English by Jane Beal, and Mark Bradshaw Busbee
pp. 262; 5 b/w illustrations; R.R.P. US $24.00; ISBN 9781603292924.
Approaches to Teaching the Middle English Pearl is a multi-author volume seeking to aid teachers in their instruction of Pearl, especially at the undergraduate level. This book fills a much-needed role for educators by consolidating over a hundred years of scholarship and translation concerning Pearl. The book is comprised of two sections: 'Materials', which gives information and locations for sources, translations, and background material helpful for any educator in providing the necessary framework for the Pearl; and 'Approaches', which is further broken down into historical, literary and theoretical, comparative, and specific classroom contexts.
The 'Materials' section of the book is written by one of the editors, Jane Beal, and provides a great deal of information and resources in print and digital format. One of the most helpful sections provided in the book is an exhaustive list of facsimiles, dual-facing editions, and translations to aid instructors in determining the best text for their students. Beal does an excellent job of introducing each of the modern translations and discussing how they relate and engage in other Pearl texts. Additionally, there are lists of many other helpful sources one might want from dissertations to multimedia resources. Beal additionally provides summaries of dating the manuscript, authorship, sources and analogues, and Pearl's place within Christian contemplative devotion. Though a smaller section of the book, it is replete with useful resources for building a syllabus.
Next, the 'Approaches' section provides a breadth of methods for instructors to consider in their approach to teaching Pearl. Perhaps because the belief is that instructors will look only at their desired approach there is a fair amount of overlap in some articles' introductions. This section's organization is superb, however, in facilitating quick access to an instructor's preferred approach. For instructors looking to teach Pearl in a survey course, the comparative approaches chapter, especially, provides excellent ways to connect and consider Pearl through other texts. Whether instructors are looking to utilize a common interest in Tolkien to draw students in to the Pearl or use Pearl to begin instruction in Middle English, there are excellent chapters on how to effectively implement it in a classroom. John M. Bower's chapter, 'Teaching Pearl when teaching Tolkien', was particularly helpful in discussing the inspiration for Lothlorien from Pearl. This was an interesting approach instead of the traditionally linked texts like Beowulf or Vǫluspá. Additionally, the 'Specific Classroom Contexts' division gives many unique methods for aiding students in approaching Pearl. Whether engaging in the difficulty of translating texts, performing Pearl, or addressing genre and gender, this section covers a broad scope.
This book contains nineteen articles, each containing a different approach to teaching the Pearl, bookended by an exhaustive resource list at the beginning [End Page 196] and study questions at the end. There are also five black and white plates—four with Pearl illuminations and one incipit folio. The weakest aspect of this book is the repetition of summary of the Pearl's plot and some tonal differences between the articles, but there is an immense amount of content perfect for any instructor preparing to teach Pearl, these minor quibbles aside. While this book is designed for quick reference, there is a lot to be gained for anyone's understanding of Pearl and many different ways to continue making this text accessible to students who are new to it or to Middle English.