Books & Journals

The Experience of Education in Anglo-Saxon Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Anglo-Saxons valued education yet understood how precarious it could be, alternately bolstered and undermined by fear, desire, and memory. They praised their teachers in official writing, but composed and translated scenes of instruction that revealed the emotional and cognitive complexity of learning. Irina Dumitrescu explores how early medieval writers used fictional representations of education to explore the relationship between teacher and student. These texts hint at the challenges of teaching and learning: curiosity, pride, forgetfulness, inattention, and despair. Still, these difficulties are understood to be part of the dynamic process of pedagogy, not simply a sign of its failure. The book demonstrates the enduring concern of Anglo-Saxon authors with learning throughout Old English and Latin poems, hagiographies, histories, and schoolbooks.

“Through its patient and generous attention to the literature of early medieval England, The Experience of Education in Anglo-Saxon England allows the emotional world of literate Anglo-Saxons to live again in its complexity and richness, and demonstrates how much can be evoked even from seemingly resistant works like grammars and translations. Elegant and stylish as well as learned, it is a lovely exemplar of genuinely humanistic scholarship.” – Emily Thornbury, Anglia

“Dumitrescu has produced a hugely enjoyable, informative, and thought-provoking monograph, which will be of interest to all scholars of early medieval literature.” – Susan Irvine, Speculum

The Experience of Education is elegantly written and rigorously researched. Its new takes on much-studied texts will revitalize scholarly discussions… No doubt those studying these individual works, their respective genres, Old English and Latin literature, educational history, or monastic culture will have much to learn about learning from Dumitrescu’s monograph.” – Laura Saetveit Miles, Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen.

“… modern education owes much to a period that fused antique conceptions of education with Christian ascetic practices, generating a complex amalgam of educational techniques and understandings that would, with modification, furnish the materials from which modern educational establishments and relationships were built. Irina Dumitrescu’s study furthers our understanding of this inheritance by exploring the logic of an alien but nonetheless related educational order. As it does so, it draws attention to what has become the disavowed underbelly of modern educational practice, studying the role of suffering and discomfort in Anglo-Saxon scenes of instruction.” – Ansgar Allen, British Journal of Educational Studies

“Irina Dumitrescu has written a learned, eloquent, and seminal book that exposes widespread pedagogical metaphors in pre-Conquest writings.” – Scott Gwara, English Studies

“Dumitrescu’s readings are meticulous and thought-provoking.” – Hana Videen, The Times Literary Supplement

“This is a book that should be read and digested by all Anglo-Saxonists. It is a model of clarity and well-structured argumentation. It is deeply informed by the author’s wide reading and skill in critical interpretation, and forms a highly significant contribution to the field.” – Greg Waite, Parergon

“…the volume… traces a remarkable and personal history of teaching and learning in Anglo-Saxon England… the topic is fully elaborated upon and justified by a successful close reading of a wide range of texts, endorsed by innumerable cross-references to other Old English and Latin works as well as to literary criticism.” – Patrizia Lendinara, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology

With Andrea Stieldorf, Linda Dohmen, and Ludwig Morenz (eds). Geschlecht macht Herrschaft – Interdisziplinäre Studien zu vormoderner Macht und Herrschaft. Göttingen: V&R unipress, Bonn University Press, 2021.

Die Kategorie ›Gender‹ ist im Themenfeld von Macht und Herrschaft maßgebend. Im Mittelpunkt des Bandes steht die Interaktion oder auch Komplementarität von ›männlicher‹ und ›weiblicher‹ Herrschaft bzw. der Herrschaftsanteile von Männern und Frauen. Die biologischen Geschlechterkategorien ›Mann‹ und ›Frau‹ und die mit ihnen verbundenen sozialen und kulturellen Rollenzuschreibungen dienen nicht als oppositionelle, dichotomische Begriffe oder Konzepte, sondern als Analysekategorie, ohne die Macht und Herrschaft nicht angemessen untersucht werden können. Die Beiträge haben einen Schwerpunkt im (latein-)europäischen Raum, reichen aber geographisch von China bis nach Ägypten, sie bewegen sich zeitlich zwischen dem 3. Jahrtausend v. Chr. und dem 16. Jahrhundert n. Chr. Untersucht werden schriftliche Quellen, aber auch Bildzeugnisse und die materielle Kultur.

The category of ‘gender’ is essential in the context of macht and herrschaft. This volume focuses on the interaction or even complementarity of ‘male’ and ‘female’ herrschaft or the share in rule of men and women. The biological gender categories ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and the connected social and cultural roles do not serve as opposing, dichotomic notions or concepts but rather as a category for analysis, without which macht and herrschaft can not be examined appropriately. The contributions highlight Latin-European regions, yet they include regions from China to Egypt from 3rd B.C until 16th century A.D. Written texts, graphics and the material culture will be analysed.

With Emma O. Bérat (eds). Everyday Arts: Craft, Voice, Performance. Special Issue of Medieval Feminist Forum 57.1 (2021).

How do crafts, manual production, bodily acts, and vocal and physical performances that have traditionally been gendered female create space for creative expression and public authority? How do these practices of making intersect with the exercise of textual or political authority?

This special issue of Medieval Feminist Forum spans from considerations of local, specific agency that is achieved through craft or performances to larger assertions of political authority through female-coded bodies. The essays treat the relationship between textile production, feminine labor, and violence; the social and communal work achieved through women’s performance and speech in late medieval drama and literature; the role of women’s arts in shaping geographical and political landscapes; and the modern art of reconstructing medieval women.

With Emma O. Bérat and Rebecca Hardie (eds). Relations of Power: Women’s Networks in the Middle Ages. Göttingen: V&R unipress, Bonn University Press, 2021.

Women’s networks – their relations with other women, men, objects and place – were a source of power in various European and neighbouring regions throughout the Middle Ages. This interdisciplinary volume considers how women’s networks, and particularly women’s direct and indirect relationships to other women, constituted and shaped power from roughly 300 to 1700 AD. The essays in this collection juxtapose scholarship from the fields of archaeology, art history, literature, history and religious studies, drawing on a wide variety of source types. Their aim is to highlight not only the importance of networks in understanding medieval women’s power but also the different ways these networks are represented in medieval sources and can be approached today. This volume reveals how women’s networks were widespread and instrumental in shaping political, familial and spiritual legacies.

“Relations of Power is short but its span is immense, moving from circa 300 CE through to the Tudors, with a foray into seventeenth-century Spain… The contributors to this collection of eight intricate, hard-won essays draw out several figures from the silt of forgetting. However, while redressing the injustice of history, they are also setting out to define afresh the modes and forms of power that medieval women used by listening to the stories objects tell, auscultating the evidence of jewels, images, liturgical arrangements, and architectural plans.” – Marina Warner, The New York Review of Books

“Das Buch überzeugt vor allem durch seinen interdisziplinären Zuschnitt, der sowohl unterschiedliche historische Sachverhalte als auch unterschiedliche Zugriffsweisen in den jeweiligen Disziplinen konzise präsentiert. Die unterschiedlichen und zahlreichen sozialen Rollen von Frauen in (ihren) Netzwerken, ihre Beziehungen zu Menschen und Objekten werden in allen Beiträgen des Bandes durchgehend anschaulich und präzise dargestellt, so dass die Beiträgerinnen und Herausgeberinnen einen Band zusammengebracht haben, der trotz und wegen methodischer Freiheiten gleichzeitig ein Panorama von Möglichkeiten und ein gelungenes Ganzes darstellt.” – Anne Diekjobst, H-Soz-Kult

With Bruce Holsinger (eds). In Brief. Special Issue of New Literary History 50.3 (2019).

This issue of New Literary History offers short reflections on a suggestive sampling of short forms. It is a menu, a catalogue, a lexicon, a palette, a beginning. Like the small genres to which this issue is dedicated, it is incomplete, its table of contents potentially infinite; indeed we hope to expand its offerings in the form of an edited collection with as many as one or two hundred contributions.

A distinguishing feature of this special issue is the intimacy between its subject and its mode of presentation. Our contributors do not mimic encyclopedia entries or information-packed Cambridge Handbook of X-type contributions; they explore the creative and critical capacities of their own brevity in presenting their chosen forms to an audience of scholars and fellow writers. Speculative, experimental, provocative, a few of them irreverent, these essays resonate with the concise and pithy spirit of the objects they scrutinize, celebrate, and reimagine.

With Eric Weiskott (eds). The Shapes of Early English Poetry: Style, Form, History. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2019.

This volume contributes to the study of early English poetics. In these essays, several related approaches and fields of study radiate outward from poetics, including stylistics, literary history, word studies, gender studies, metrics, and textual criticism. By combining and redirecting these traditional scholarly methods, as well as exploring newer ones such as object-oriented ontology and sound studies, these essays demonstrate how poetry responds to its intellectual, literary, and material contexts.

The contributors propose to connect the small (syllables, words, and phrases) to the large (histories, emotions, faiths, secrets). In doing so, they attempt to work magic on the texts they consider: turning an ordinary word into something strange and new, or demonstrating texture, difference, and horizontality where previous eyes had perceived only smoothness, sameness, and verticality.

“The Shapes of Early English Poetry offers a robust study of early English aesthetics. The contributors engage this challenging topic with verve and relevance, ever attentive to the social and historical implications of style.” – Stacy Klein, Anglia

“This consistently astute and innovative set of essays is dedicated to Roberta Frank by former students and others who intersected with her during her “Yale years,”… The essays here cultivate more explicit and varied theoretical apparatuses than Frank’s own historically learned, often witty, and always deftly suggestive essays on “style” and poetics; the volume’s showcasing of methods is one of its most useful features. On offer are metrics, lexical generativity, performativity, phenomenology, sound studies, and “object-oriented ontology” (OOO), all deployed with high self-consciousness and acuity and applied to medieval English poetry from The Wanderer to Lydgate’s Fifteen Joys and Sorrows of Mary, with additional forays into the feminist provocations of Meghan Purvis’s 2013 translation of Beowulf, and an OOO approach to Old Norse kennings.” – Andrew Galloway, Modern Philology

“More than in many Festschrifts, the ten essays here reflect their honoree’s influence on scholarship on Old and Middle English and Old Norse, especially her ability to use one surprising, overlooked detail as a lens through which to reorient scholarly perspectives about language, history, and culture… These essays offer thought-provoking, carefully contextualized, occasionally brilliant new readings of familiar texts.” – Evelyn Reynolds, The Medieval Review

“Dem vorliegenden Sammelband gelingt es auf beeindruckende Weise, die Dichtung eines grosszügig gefassten ‘Early English’ Zeitraums in ihren vielen Facetten zu beleuchten, die Forschungsschwerpunkte der mit dem Band geehrten Roberta Frank zu reflektieren, und deren einzigartigen, oft spielerischen Schreibstil für neue Forschungsfragen zu adaptieren.” – Nicole Nyffenegger, Das Mittelalter

Rumba Under Fire: The Arts of Survival from West Point to Delhi. Brooklyn: Punctum Books, 2016.

A professor of poetry uses a deck of playing cards to measure the time until her lover returns from Afghanistan. Congolese soldiers find their loneliness reflected in the lyrics of rumba songs. Survivors of the siege of Sarajevo discuss which book they would have never burned for fuel. A Romanian political prisoner writes her memoir in her head, a book no one will ever read. These are the arts of survival in times of crisis.

Rumba Under Fire proposes we think differently about what it means for the arts and liberal arts to be “in crisis.” In prose and poetry, the contributors to Rumba Under Fire explore what it means to do art in hard times. How do people teach, create, study, and rehearse in situations of political crisis? Can art and intellectual work really function as resistance to power? What relationship do scholars, journalists, or even memoirists have to the crises they describe and explain? How do works created in crisis, especially at the extremes of human endurance, fit into our theories of knowledge and creativity?

The contributors are literary scholars, anthropologists, and poets, covering a broad geographic range — from Turkey to the United States, from Bosnia to the Congo. 

“Irina Dumitrescu’s edited collection Rumba Under Fire – available to download free from Punctum – is full of stories of people still managing to write, teach and learn in the cruellest circumstances… These heartening tales put our own troubles into proportion. They show us that the human will, and our inescapably social instincts, usually find a way.” – Joe Moran, The Guardian

“The book makes a cohesive argument not just about how engagement with the humanities can help temper or explain various political or humanitarian crisis, but that there will always be multiple, equally vital ways — from poetry to scholarship, and more — to process ideas in and of themselves, and that these multiple approaches can be tools for survival in harsh times” – Jenny Drai, Anomaly

“While no one wishes for hard times, they do come. This book reminds its readers that frequently these times are out of one’s individual control. No amount of care in how we live can protect us from war or an oppressive regime. But even if our books burn and our music is away, even if our prayers must come from memory, all is not yet lost. There is still hope, even under fire.” – Cara Strickland, The Cresset

“The humanities evolve to survive regardless of the circumstances, but this book makes a good case for the value in preserving and promoting them at all costs.” – Bitch Magazine

“Rumba Under Fire was published before the US entered its present circumstances, but it feels like a tool of the resistance. Add it to your belt” – Heather Seggel, The Progressive Populist

“Amid laments about the crisis of the humanities, it’s good to read about the power of humanities in times of crisis.” – Glasgow Review of Books