Sunday, May 6, 2007

John NIles' New Book

Just out: Beowulf and Lejre, by John D. Niles, featuring contributions by Tom Christensen and Marijane Osborn. Foreword by John Hines, afterword by Tom Shippey. Edited by J. Niles and M. Osborn. Published by the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Tempe, AZ, as vol. 323 in the series Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies. With over 200 illustrations, including 48 in full color. 495 + xiv pages. ISBN 978-0-86698-368-6. Hardcover, $89.95. In collaboration with Brepols Publishers, Belgium.

Is the Old English epic poem Beowulf mere fantasy, or is its action grounded in a real-world locale? Archaeological excavations undertaken in 1986-88 and again in 2004-05 at Lejre, on the Danish island of Zealand, throw that question into relief, for they have revealed the existence of two Iron Age and Viking Age hall-complexes located right where the Danish episodes of that poem have traditionally been located on the basis of legendary evidence. This book reports on these dramatic discoveries and analyzes their significance. Many texts relating to Lejre in the medieval and modern period are included with analysis and commentary. In addition, the modern pseudo-scholarly "myth of Lejre" is explored. The book includes a translation into English of the 1991 book Lejre: Syn og Sagn by the Danish archaeologist Tom Christensen, director of the 1986-88 excavations, together with a new chapter by Christensen summarizing the results of the latest excavations.

In the editors' view, the archaeological discoveries that have stimulated the publication of this book represent "the most important new material development in Beowulf studies to have taken place since the poem was first published in a reliable modern edition" (in 1833-37). You are invited to see if you agree.

A roundtable discussion on the topic "Beowulf and Lejre: Assimilating the New Archaeological Discoveries" is scheduled as session 38 at the 2007 Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo, Michigan. Congress attendees please note: so as to avoid an unfortunate scheduling conflict, that session will merge with session 40, "The Vikings in Late Anglo-Saxon England," into a single 2.5-hour "supersession." The Richard Rawlinson Center for Anglo-Saxon Studies and Manuscript Research will serve as chief host. The combined session will start at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 10 May, in Bernhard 105 (not Schneider 1340), beginning with the scheduled Rawlinson Center program.

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