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Abstracts 98.3

Dennis Cronan, “The Role of the Jutes in the Story of Finnsburg”
The presence of the Jutes in the Finnsburg episode of Beowulf is usually ignored or elided. Yet the Danes would not have been able to settle with Finn, nor would he himself have trusted them as much as he apparently did, if he had intentionally and treacherously attacked them, directly violating both kinship and hospitality. The repeated references to the eotena, eotenum “Jutes” in the episode identify the presence of a group of men among Finn’s retainers whose obligations in some feud or quarrel of their own led them to attack the Danes, ultimately dragging both the Frisians and Finn himself into the fight. Although Finn is able to negotiate and settle with the Danes because he did not lead the initial attack, he, along with the Jutes, ultimately has to pay for the slaying of their king, Hnæf, with his own life.

Mo Pareles, “Already/Never: Jewish-Porcine Conversion in the Middle English Children of the Oven Miracle”
The mass conversion of Jewish children to pigs (the Miracle of the Oven) in the thirteenth-century Middle English Infancy of Jesus Christ, a preface to the Early South English Legendary, reveals Jewish law as a proleptic confession of Jewish animality and consigns Jewish children to a temporal abjection that absorbs the ESEL’s many anxieties about Christian childhood. This abject temporal state, which this essay names the “already/never,” militates against redemptive hope for Jews and justifies the expulsion of Jews not only from Christian England but also from ordinary English Christian time. Simultaneously, in juxtaposing the affective lives of the Holy Family and of Jewish families to demonstrate that Jewish children are ungrievable, the miracle tale poses a genealogy for violence against Jewish children not in the blood libel but in Christ’s own childish violence against his Jewish companions.

Merridee Bailey, “Early English Dictionaries and the History of Meekness”
​​​​​​Words keep company with other words in dictionaries. But which words have been chosen to describe the Middle English “meek”? Why were these words used and what change and continuities can we see over time? This article investigates definitions for “meek,” and words derived from it, from the earliest mid-fifteenth-century English-­Latin and Latin-English vocabularies, as well as later bilingual and multilingual dictionaries. Because modern western society primarily views meekness in a straightforwardly negative way as a behavior that demonstrates weakness and submission, a study of historical dictionaries helps to unpick meekness’s more complex meanings and in doing so, sheds light on the social, religious, and cultural values of late medieval and early modern England. 

Massimiliano Morini, “The Superiority of Classical Translation in Sixteenth-Century England: Thomas Hoby and John Harington”
Translation, according to F. O. Matthiessen, was the means whereby “the Renaissance came to England”—with vernacular versions of Greek and Latin books and through the mediation of other European cultures. “Horizontal” translation, however—i.e., in Gianfranco Folena’s definition, translation from contemporary European tongues—was not considered to be as important as its “vertical” counterpart. If there was no doubt that bringing classical antiquity to England was a worthwhile enterprise, the necessity of “Englishing” Italian, French, or Spanish books was not to be taken for granted. Consequently, Thomas Hoby and John Harington attempted to defend their versions of Castiglione’s Cortegiano (1561) and Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso (1591) by appealing to classical sources and authorities. In their paratexts, both translators drew on existing parallels between their source authors and illustrious writers of the past (Cicero for Castiglione, Virgil for Ariosto); and most interestingly, they defended the practice of translating contemporary texts by mentioning various examples of classical translation. The prestige of “vertical” versions was thus exploited to heighten the status of their “horizontal” products—an operation which paradoxically demonstrated the perceived inferiority of modern Europe and its languages to the languages and cultures of antiquity.           

David Knight-Croft and Stephen Powell, “Editing for God and Country: Middle English Exemplary Romances from Thomas Warton to Julius Zupitza”
This article examines religious and nationalistic pressures on the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century editors of Middle English didactic, or exemplary, romances, which survive in multiple and often competing medieval manuscript versions. In editorial methodologies and paratextual commentaries, the editors reveal their anxieties about recovering and transmitting these poems, which render Catholicism attractive in a predominantly Protestant milieu and which only ambiguously confirm a teleological view of Britain’s progress away from its uncivilized past. Editing these texts too accurately posed the risk of undercutting the Protestant faith and the comfortable chestnut of the Middle Ages as barbarous. The British antiquarians’ work is brought into relief by comparing their editions to those of slightly later German philologists. Removed from the demands of British nationalism and apparently less concerned about competing faiths, the German editors produced editions that offer much more straightforward, and more accurate, accounts of the manuscript remains of these poems.