The Experience of Education in Anglo-Saxon Literature

experience of education - small cover image

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. In this book I explore 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.



1. Letters: Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People

2. Prayer: Solomon and Saturn I

3. Violence: Ælfric Bata’s Colloquies

4. Recollection: Andreas

5. Desire: The Life of St Mary of Egypt

Conclusion: The Ends of Teaching


Reviewed in:


British Journal of Educational Studies

English Studies

The Times Literary Supplement


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Available from Cambridge University Press and on Amazon.