Friday, September 05, 2008

Alaric Hall's Elves in Anglo-Saxon England

This is the first paragraph of my review of this excellent book for The Medieval Review. When the full text is up on their website, you should be able to find it here.

Hall, Alaric. Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief,
Health, Gender and Identity.
Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press,
2007. Pp. xi, 226. $80.00. ISBN: 1843832941, ISBN-13:
9781843832942.

Reviewed by Michael D.C. Drout
Wheaton College
mdrout@wheatonma.edu


Despite its seemingly hyper-specialized title, Alaric Hall's Elves
in Anglo-Saxon England
is a book that should be read by all
medievalists. Hall's conclusions about his subject are significant,
but far more important is his methodological approach, which is a new
model for early medieval scholarship. His demonstration of the ways
that rock-solid philology can be combined with cross-cultural
historical scholarship, folkloristic analysis of later material and
some contemporary literary theory is far more deserving of the title
"New Philology" than any turn to manuscript studies and variants in
the 1980s ever was. Hall's exceedingly careful reconstruction of the
cultural categories in which ├Žlf existed shows how comparative
philology can be extended to become comparative cultural studies. By
putting linguistic history into an anthropological framework and using
as comparanda folklore dating from as late as the seventeenth
century, Hall is able to recover information about medieval cultures
that would otherwise be lost forever. The genuine excitement of such
recovery and the technical precision with which it is done are both
inspiring.

2 comments:

Paul said...

I didn't pay any attention to who had written that review, but when I read it this morning, I immediately flagged it as a book I need to check out. You certainly piqued my interest!

mrkinch said...

I do not believe that your review is on the website even now. Have you any idea when it will appear? Is there anywhere else that I might read it? Thank you.