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date: 01 December 2021

p. 413. When it beganlocked

p. 413. When it beganlocked

  • Jonathan Bate


There is an ancient history to the origins of English literature, which is contrary to the Anglocentric version of literary history. ‘When it began’ looks at the many inputs into the evolution of English literature including the Celts, the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans, and Chaucer. Where did English literature begin? With the Celtic bards, Julius Caesar, Cædmon, Alfred, or with the poem that celebrate the battle of Brunanburh and Athelstan's unification of the kingdom? Or did it begin with Chaucer? The Bible is foundational of English literature by virtue of its generic impurity. Our primary tool for reading English literature — hermeneutics, the art of interpretation — was originally devised as a way of reading the Bible.

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