Publication Awards 2023

We are delighted to present the publications which won ISSEME’s prizes in 2023:

Best Book

Ideas of the World Book Cover

Mark Atherton, Kazutomo Karasawa & Francis Leneghan, ed., Ideas of the World in Early Medieval English Literature (Turnhout: Brepols, 2002)

An inspiring collection with fifteen contributors, ranging from new voices to experienced scholars, who investigate how the inhabitants of early medieval England perceived the outside world and how they positioned themselves in relation to other peoples and cultures. A timely and well-construed collection that touches on a variety of topical subjects (inclusivity, exclusivity, connectivity, apartness, multiculturalism, insularity), which is sure to be a starting point for many research projects in the future.

Best 1st Monograph

Book Cover: A New Literary History

Mark Faulkner, A New Literary History of the Long Twelfth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2022)

An extremely well-structured, amply referenced, and very readable book which fills a gap in existing scholarship and will be the reference work on the period for the foreseeable future. It offers a comprehensive overview of work that has been done, showing how disciplinary and methodological assumptions shaped its conception. The books interdisciplinary approach draws on linguistic and literary studies to overcome discipline-specific limitations and gain a new understanding of the literature of this important transition period.

Best Article

Rob Gallagher, “Asser and the Writing of West Saxon Charters”, The English Historical Review 136 (2021), 773–808

This important article presents a meticulous study of Latin literary prose in the late ninth- and early tenth-century West Saxon court. By comparing the prose of Asser’s Life of King Alfred with the language of the royal charters, Gallagher’s detailed examination offers a compelling case for the reception of the Life in England by c. 904 as it is shown to employ Latin phrasing typical of the time. In addition, Gallagher demonstrates convincingly that the charters contain idioms particular to Asser, implying that either the writers of the charters were influenced by Asser’s prose, or that Asser himself had a hand in writing the royal charters. Not only does this suggest that Asser continued to be active (and indeed, influential) in the literary life of the West Saxon court following the death of Alfred, but that “charters were an integral part of literary activity in this setting” (p. 804). 

Best Article by an Early-Career Researcher

Jake Stattel, ‘Legal Culture in the Danelaw: A Study of III Æthelred’, Anglo-Saxon England 48 (“2019” but actually published in 2022), 163-203 

It was a pleasant but challenging task to choose one out of so many truly outstanding papers. However, the panel were unanimous in finding one paper particularly significant. It was well-written and rigorously researched, with convincing supporting evidence, but in addition, the panel felt that this paper was changing and furthering our understanding of the legal landscape of early medieval England. Stattel’s paper combines a study of legal texts with archaeological evidence and analyses the Wantage code in impressive depth, proving convincingly that the differences between English laws and laws in the Danelaw were due to the input of Anglo-Scandinavian elites who helped draft III Æthelred. This reveals a fundamentally different understanding of the law and the reasons for those differences.  

This paper will be of interest to both historical and literary scholars, revealing as it does, different socio-cultural approaches and different mind-sets between England and the Danelaw regions; to give an example, one significant difference is the notion of collective responsibility before the law. This is a fascinating and engaging paper, and it was a great pleasure to award Jake Stattel the prize for best essay by an ECR. 

Best Edition, Translation or Research Aid

Book Cover Pastoral Care

R. D. Fulk, The Old English Pastoral Care, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library (Harvard University Press, 2021)

This new edition and translation of a core, but under-studied, Old English text represents a major advance for scholars and readers on the prior edition, which is now over 150 years old. The Pastoral Care has long been in a strange situation: its prefatory letter is read by almost every student of Old English, yet the book itself, considered in its time one of those ‘most needful for all people to know,’ is read by only a handful of scholars. The committee believes that this excellent and accessible new edition will rectify this situation, and are therefore delighted to present the award for ‘Best Translation or Research Aid’ to R.D. Fulk’s Dumbarton Oaks edition and translation of the Old English Pastoral Care.

Best Teaching Aid or Public Outreach

Screenshot Wondrium

Renee Trilling, Old English Literature as History (Wondrium 2022)

Trilling’s Wondrium course, ‘Old English – Language as History’ is quite simply an outstanding introduction to the field for a broad general audience. It’s clear and accessible, introducing complex topics simply without over-simplification, and adding thoughtful nuance that doesn’t bury an audience in esoteric technicalities. The course also does a great job of introducing a much broader range of pre-Conquest literature than general audiences usually encounter (including legal and scientific texts). It’s also genuinely interdisciplinary, melding history, literary study, and historical sociolinguistics, and demonstrates the value of historicist readings of literature, while still remaining attentive to literary form.

Honorable mention in the Best Teaching Aid & Public Outreach category

Birkett and Koivisto-Kokko, “Old English Online,” is a solid, clear, and accessible introduction to Old English language. It has a nice variety of practice snippets of text in the “Reading Comprehension” section, and interactive practice within the grammar lessons. Best of all, it’s freely available! It is an outstanding addition to the tools available to supplement language study, and will be a help to students and teachers of Old English everywhere.