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Addendum to A Judith Constellation

June 28, 2013

A few days ago, I posted about the texts that form the basis of this project. Yet I mistakenly forgot to include one significant text: the Old English poem Judith.* In some ways, this is a gross oversight; but, in other ways, it is a fortunate occurrence, since it allows me to discuss the nature of this text a little bit more. By way of correction, I will use this post to do so.

First, my omission is perhaps most pronounced given the canonicity of the Judith poem (which I mentioned briefly here), since it is, in many ways, the most expected text in my list. While this poem is not as famous or widely read as Beowulf, its place in the same manuscript (London, British Library, Cotton Vitellius A.xv) has afforded it some considerable in scholarship. Still, the poem’s place in the English canon is most apparent only recently, by way of inclusion in textbooks and readers such as those by Elaine Treharne (Old and Middle English, c.890-c.1450: An Anthology, 1st ed. in 2000, 3rd ed. in 2010), Mitchell and Robinson (A Guide to Old English, where Judith is included in the 6th-8th editions, 2001, 2007, and 2011), Peter Baker (Introduction to Old English, 1st ed. in 2003, 3rd ed. in 2012), and Richard Marsden (The Cambridge Old English Reader, 2004).* Despite this canonicity and scholarly attention, it is still difficult to understand the poem in its cultural context, alongside other texts related to the biblical Judith.

Because of its place in scholarship on Old English, my attention to previous printings also deserves some comment. Initially, I have consulted three main editions:
Beowulf and Judith, ed. Elliott van Kirk Dobbie, ASPR 4 (New York: Columbia UP, 1953)
Judith, ed. Mark Griffith (Exeter: Exeter UP, 1997; repr. 2001)
The Beowulf Manuscript: Complete Texts and The Fight at Finnsburg, ed. and trans. R. D. Fulk, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 3 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2010)

This multiplicity of editions is helpful enough on its own, but  the Judith poem also has another mark in its favor, both for general reception and for this project: the British Library recently allowed public access to the digitized version of the manuscript that contains it (fortuitously, because of the more famous Beowulf in the same volume), which may be found here. So while the text is easily accessible in printed editions, I will also consult the manuscript for my own transcription and project. I also plan to incorporate the manuscript (images, etc.) into the end product.


* Nobody has yet pointed this out, despite the glaring obviousness of its absence.

** Paul Szarmach makes a similar observation in his recent essay, “Ælfric’s Judith,” Old English Literature and the Old Testament, ed. Michael Fox and Manish Sharma, Toronto Anglo-Saxon Series 10 (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2012), 64-88.


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