Remembering the Medieval Present: Generative Uses of England’s Pre-Conquest Past, 10th to 15th Centuries


Volume Editors: and
This volume of essays focuses on how individuals living in the late tenth through fifteenth centuries engaged with the authorizing culture of the Anglo-Saxons. Drawing from a reservoir of undertreated early English documents and texts, each contributor shows how individual poets, ecclesiasts, legists, and institutions claimed Anglo-Saxon predecessors for rhetorical purposes in response to social, cultural, and linguistic change. Contributors trouble simple definitions of identity and period, exploring how medieval authors looked to earlier periods of history to define social identities and make claims for their present moment based on the political fiction of an imagined community of a single, distinct nation unified in identity by descent and religion.

Contributors are Cynthia Turner Camp, Irina Dumitrescu, Jay Paul Gates, Erin Michelle Goeres, Mary Kate Hurley, Maren Clegg Hyer, Nicole Marafioti, Brian O’Camb, Kathleen Smith, Carla María Thomas, Larissa Tracy, and Eric Weiskott.

See inside the book.

Prices from (excl. shipping):

Add to Cart
Jay Paul Gates, Ph.D. (2007), is Associate Professor of Anglo-Saxon and Early Medieval Literature and Languages at John Jay College in the City University of New York. He co-edited, with Nicole Marafioti, Capital and Corporal Punishment in Anglo-Saxon England (2014). He has published on Anglo-Saxon law and literature, the effects of Anglo-Scandinavian cultural contact, and post-Conquest historiographical treatments of the Anglo-Saxon period.
Brian O’Camb, Ph.D. (2009), is Associate Professor of English at Indiana University Northwest. He has published articles on the scribal, material, and intellectual contexts of the Exeter Book, and its later reception and editorial transmission by the eighteenth-century antiquarian George Hickes, in journals such as English Literary History, Philological Quarterly, and Review of English Studies.
"Jay Paul Gates and Brian T. O’Camb’s edited volume Remembering the Medieval Present is the eleventh in the Explorations in Medieval Culture series. In the interdisciplinary style characteristic of the series, it combines historical, philological, and manuscript approaches to political, religious, and literary sources in order to explore how the history of pre-Conquest England was engaged with, rewritten, and reinterpreted in the tenth to fifteenth centuries. At the centre of these essays sits an investigation into history, time, and community—collectively they explore how the past was used to create and navigate identity in the present. [...] The interdisciplinary approach of this collection is a great strength here. It contributes a comprehensive analysis into diverse usages of history, drawing out how different genres of sources in various ways worked to a similar goal of identity building. [...] Overall, Medieval Present provides a compelling variety of investigations into usages of the pre-Conquest past across genres and contexts; it is a sound addition to the research into appeals to history". - Lucy Moloney, in: Parergon, 38.1 (2021)

"Jay Paul Gates and Brian O’Camb have edited a stimulating and timely collection of ten essays covering various aspects of the ways medieval authors and audiences, ca.1000–1600, attempted to understand the early medieval English past. The essays in Remembering the Medieval Present highlight the value that later generations attached to their constantly evolving and individualized versions of the imagined early English past. They showcase numerous examples of how identifying alterations to perceived narratives of the past help the modern reader to better understand the cultural capital of historical knowledge in political, intellectual, religious, and cultural spheres.[…]Gates and O’Camb and their contributing authors have given us much to think about in this fascinating essay collection." Charles C. Rozier, in Journal of British Studies, 60.3 (July 2021)

"The volume as a whole offers many valuable local insights into the texts examined. In addition, certain leitmotifs emerge across its chapters: memories of early colonization are repeatedly used to construct a sense of national unity; the lives of early saints can generate a strong sense of identity in myriad contexts; in the hands of poets, a textual inheritance becomes a tool for remembering, interrogating, and reimagining literary history itself. Such areas of inquiry as these will surely continue to produce insights into how the past was remembered across the medieval period. To guide such future studies, this volume should stand as a strong reminder that the pressures of the present fundamentally influence how history is remembered." Anya Adair, in The Medieval Review, 22.03.20. See the full review here.

List of Figures and Tables
List of Abbreviations
List of Contributors

Introduction: Anglo-Saxon Predecessors and Precedents
Jay Paul Gates and Brian O’Camb
 1 The Legacy of King Edgar in the Laws of Archbishop Wulfstan
Nicole Marafioti
 2 Exile and Migration in the Vernacular Lives of Edward “the Confessor”
Erin Michelle Goeres
 3 Quidam proditor partis Danicae: Aelred’s Re-Imagining of the Anglo-Saxon Past
Jay Paul Gates
 4 The Hermitic Topos: “Selling” Shared Sanctity to Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, and English Audiences
Maren Clegg Hyer
 5 Looking for Holy Grandmothers in Late Medieval Nunneries
Cynthia Turner Camp
 6 Peace Weaving and Gold Giving: Anglo-Saxon Queenship in Havelok the Dane
Larissa Tracy
 7 Writing, Rewriting, and Disrupting the Anglo-Saxon Past in Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale
Kathleen Smith
 8 The Case of Poema Morale: Old English Homiletic Influence in Early Middle English Verse
Carla María Thomas
 9 The Familiar Wisdom of Treasured Friends and the Landscape of Conquest in The Proverbs of Alfred
Brian O’Camb
 10 The Idea of Bede in English Political Prophecy
Eric Weiskott
Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Kate Hurley

General Index
All interested in Anglo-Saxon and early English history and literature, and anyone concerned with national or ethnic identity, imagined communities, or textual communities in the Middle Ages.
  • Collapse
  • Expand