Borrowed objects and the art of poetry

Spolia in Old English verse

By Denis Ferhatovic

Borrowed objects and the art of poetry


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3165-2
  • Pages: 200
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: March 2019
  • BIC Category: POETRY / Medieval, LITERARY CRITICISM / Medieval, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: poetry & poets, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: classical, early & medieval, Medieval Literature, Middle English, Literary studies: ancient & classical, Classic & pre-20th century poetry
  • Series: Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture


This study examines Exeter riddles, Anglo-Saxon biblical poems (Exodus, Andreas, Judith) and Beowulf in order to uncover the poetics of spolia, an imaginative use of recycled fictional artefacts to create sites of metatextual reflection. Old English poetry famously lacks an explicit ars poetica. This book argues that attention to particularly charged moments within texts - especially those concerned with translation, transformation and the layering of various pasts - yields a previously unrecognised means for theorising Anglo-Saxon poetic creativity. Borrowed objects and the art of poetry works at the intersections of materiality and poetics, balancing insights from thing theory and related approaches with close readings of passages from Old English texts.


Introduction: Powerful fragments: ruin, relics, spolia
1 Encyclopedic miniatures: combinatory powers of loot in the Exeter Riddles
2 Architecture of the past and the future: transformative potential of plunder in Exodus
3 Animated, animating: bringing stone, flesh, and text to life in Andreas
4 Zooming out, cutting through: resistance to incorporation in Judith
5 A hoard full of plunder: paradoxical materiality of loss in Beowulf
Afterword: Resistant material remnants in Old English and beyond


Denis Ferhatovic is Associate Professor of English at Connecticut College, New London

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