The taught component of this MA has covered a variety of topics and a range of literature. The correlation of subject matter between the Old and Middle English strands has helped to highlight the connection between these two periods in literary history, despite the apparent lack of identity of the literature of the transition period in around the twelfth century. While examining the relationship between medieval religion and the language of satire I came across a chapter entitled “The Exeter Book Riddles and the Place of Sexual Idiom in Old English Literature” in Medieval Obscenities (ed. Mc Donald). In this chapter Glenn Davis states that”[e]arly critics, fuelled by a combination of their own distaste for these riddles’ salacious content and a belief in the homogeneously orthodox landscape of the late Anglo-Saxon church, worked hard to separate them from the rest of the Old English literary corpus” (39). Davis goes on to state that “many of those early prejudices persist” (39). However, these riddles make up about one third of the content of the Exeter Book, which also contains the largest extant collection of Old English poetry. The Book History component of the course led me to research the manuscripts such as the Exeter Book in order to better understand their function and modes of utility. A combination of several aspects of the course have led me to Exeter Book and its riddles as a research topic. I aim to explore the riddle tradition from antiquity to the Middle Ages and its connection to the Old English riddles, the connection between the Exeter Book riddles and the manuscript that contains them, and position of the riddles in the Old English canon.
Hulbert, James R. Bright’s Anglo-Saxon Reader. Maryland: Wildside, 2008. Print.
Mc Donald, Nicola. Medieval Obsenities. York: Boydell, 2006. Print.
Image source: http://english.siuc.edu/oldEngLit.html