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The Sea and Medieval English Literature


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As the first cultural history of the sea in medieval English literature, this book traces premodern myths of insularity from their Old English beginnings to Shakespeare's Tempest. Beginning with a discussion of biblical, classical and pre-Conquest treatments of the sea, it investigates how such works as the Anglo-Norman Voyage of St Brendan, the Tristan romances, the chronicles of Matthew Paris, King Horn, Patience, The Book of Margery Kempe and The Libelle of Englyshe Polycye shape insular ideologies of Englishness. Whether it is Britain's privileged place in the geography of salvation or the political fiction of the idyllic island fortress, medieval English writers' myths of the sea betray their anxieties about their own insular identity; their texts call on maritime motifs to define England geographically and culturally against the presence of the sea. New insights from a range of fields, including jurisprudence, theology, the history of cartography and anthropology, are used to provide fresh readings of a wide range of both insular and continental writings.

SEBASTIAN I. SOBECKI is Professor of Medieval English Literature and Culture, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.


[U]n ouvrage agréable à lire et à regarder, une synthèse intelligente qui mérite attention! CAHIERS DE CIVILISATION MÉDIÉVALE
Engaging and groundbreaking. [...] Ultimately this work traverses languages, genres, and h the sea itself - it opens up many trajectories for future exploration. SPECULUM
Sobecki's impressive range of languages is worthy of mention, as is his clear and eminently readable prose. [...] this book offers a valuable range of impressions in its readings of the sea in medieval English literature, as well as an excellent survey of the theme as a whole. MEDIUM ÆVUM
The author is original both in his approach to early English, Latin, and French texts and in his intellectual adventurousness..] This book hence reveals uncommon intellectual curiosity. One looks forward to Sobecki's future work. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW


First Published: 19 Dec 2007
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843841371
9 black and white illustrations
Pages: 218
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: D.S.Brewer

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  Traditions
  • 3  Deserts and Forests in the Ocean
  • 4  Almost beyond the World
  • 5  Realms in Abeyance
  • 6  Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
  • 7  A Thousand Furlongs of Sea
  • 8  Epilogue: The Tempest's Many Beginnings
  • 9  Bibliography
  • 10  Index