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Early Mercian Text Production: Authors, Dialects, and Reputations

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image of Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik

There are suggestions that King Alfred’s legendary literary renaissance may have been a reaction to the efforts of the neighbouring kingdom of Mercia. According to Asser, Alfred assembled a group of literary scholars from this rival Mercian tradition at his court. But it is not clear what early literary activities these scholars could have been involved in to justify their pre-Alfredian reputation. This article tries to outline the historical and literary evidence for early Mercian text production, and the importance of this ‘other’ early literary corpus. What is our current knowledge of Mercian text production and the political and literary relationship of Mercia with Canterbury? What was the relationship of Alfred’s educational movement with its Mercian forerunner? Why is modern scholarship better informed about Alfred’s movement than any Mercian rival culture? If our current knowledge of this area is insufficient for the writing of a literary history of Mercia, a provisional list of texts and bibliography, published electronically for convenient updating, may prove useful in the meantime.

Affiliations: 1: University of St AndrewsUK


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