Old Age in Early Medieval England: A Cultural History

Anglo-Saxon Studies 33. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2019 (hc); 2021 (pb).

How did Anglo-Saxons reflect on the experience of growing old? Was it really a golden age for the elderly, as has been suggested? This first full survey of the Anglo-Saxon cultural conceptualisation of old age, as manifested and reflected in the texts and artwork of the inhabitants of early medieval England, presents a more nuanced and complicated picture. The author argues that although senescence was associated with the potential for wisdom and pious living, the Anglo-Saxons also anticipated various social, psychological and physical repercussions of growing old. Their attitude towards elderly men and women – whether they were saints, warriors or kings – was equally ambivalent.
Multidisciplinary in approach, this book makes use of a wide variety of sources, ranging from the visual arts to hagiography, homiletic literature and heroic poetry. Individual chapters deal with early medieval definitions ofthe life cycle; the merits and drawbacks of old age as represented in Anglo-Saxon homilies and wisdom poetry; the hagiographic topos of elderly saints; the portrayal of grey-haired warriors in heroic literature; Beowulf asa mirror for elderly kings; and the cultural roles attributed to old women.


Reviewed in Modern PhilologyJournal of British StudiesThe Medieval ReviewAnglia ; SpeculumFolkloreTOEBI Newsletter; The English Historical Review ; QFiABDas Mittelalter

Edited volumes and special issues

Old English Medievalism: Reception and Recreation in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Edited by Rachel A. Fletcher, Thijs Porck and Oliver M. Traxel. Medievalism series. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2022.

Old English language and literary style have long been a source of artistic inspiration and fascination, providing modern writers and scholars with the opportunity not only to explore the past but, in doing so, to find new perspectives on the present. This volume brings together thirteen essays on the modern-day afterlives of Old English, exploring how it has been transplanted and recreated in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by translators, novelists, poets and teachers. These afterlives include the composition of neo-Old English, the evocation in a modern literary context of elements of early medieval English language and style, the fictional depiction of Old English-speaking worlds and world views, and the adaptation and recontextualisation of works of early medieval English literature.

Contributors are James Aitcheson, Fran Allfrey, Joana Blanquer, Victoria Condie, Donna Beth Ellard, Denis Ferhatovic, Rachel A. Fletcher, Emma Hitchcock, Karen Louise Jolly, Fritz Kemmler, Judy Kendall, Gabriele Knappe, Martina Marzullo, Rafael J. Pascual, Thijs Porck, Erin E. Sweany, M. J. Toswell and Oliver M. Traxel.


Early Medieval English Life Courses: Cultural-Historical Perspectives

Edited by Thijs Porck and Harriet Soper. Explorations of Medieval Culture 20. Leiden: Brill, 2022.

How did the life course, with all its biological, social and cultural aspects, influence the lives, writings, and art of the inhabitants of early medieval England? This volume explores how phases of human life such as childhood, puberty, and old age were identified, characterized, and related in contemporary sources, as well as how nonhuman life courses were constructed. The multi-disciplinary contributions range from analyses of age vocabulary to studies of medicine, name-giving practices, theology, Old English poetry, and material culture. Combined, these cultural-historical perspectives reveal how the concept and experience of the life course shaped attitudes in early medieval England.

Contributors are Jo Appleby, Debby Banham, Darren Barber, Caroline R. Batten, James Chetwood, Katherine Cross, Amy Faulkner, Jacqueline Fay, Elaine Flowers, Daria Izdebska, Gale R. Owen-Crocker, Thijs Porck and Harriet Soper.


Exploring Early Medieval English Eloquence: A Digital Humanities Approach with A Thesaurus of Old English and Evoke

Edited by Thijs Porck and Sander Stolk. Special issue of Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 81:3-4 (2021) 

Ever since its publication in 1995, A Thesaurus of Old English has been the point of departure for many scholars working on aspects of the language and culture of early medieval England. Whether doing a semantic field study or a literary-critical analysis, scholars have profited from the ability to look up which Old English words were available to denote particular concepts. This special issue is devoted to this important lexicographic resource and how scholars have been able to further explore Old English lexis through the new web-application Evoke, developed by Sander Stolk as part of his PhD project at Leiden University. Many of the contributions are available in Open Access.

Contributors are Amos van Baalen, Rafael Cruz González, Kees Dekker, Katrien Depuydt, Javier E. Díaz-Vera, Jesse de Does, Fahad Khan, Francisco Javier Minaya Gómez, Monica Monachini, Rita van de Poel, Thijs Porck, Jane Roberts and Sander Stolk.

More info available here.


Scholarly Correspondence on Medieval Germanic Language and Literature

Edited by Thijs Porck, Amos van Baalen and Jodie Mann. Special issue of Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 78: 2-3 (2018)

In an age before the Cloud and social media, scholars relied on letter-writing for collaboration, peer feedback and the building and sustaining of academic networks. Furthermore, since bringing publications to print was a slow and laborious process, letters were considered a quick and efficient way to share one’s insights, data and discoveries with colleagues. As such, scholarly correspondence is an important source for the history of philological scholarship.

Contributors are Amos van Baalen, Oliver Bock, Beijia Chen, Rachel Fletcher, Ton van Kalmthout, Jodie Mann, Thijs Porck, Catherine Squires, Daniel Thomas and Arend Quak


The Familiar and the Foreign in Old Germanic Studies

Edited by Thijs Porck. Special issue of Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 77: 3-4 (2017)

This collection celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of the Dutch Society for Old Germanic studies, the Vereniging voor Oudgermanisten. The collection brings together contributions by both veteran and early career members of the society and centres on the theme of the encounter between the familiar and the foreign. The articles are representative of the broad scope of Old Germanic studies, ranging from philology to historical linguistics, through to history, text editions and manuscript studies, and spanning the geographical area from Iceland to the Mediterranean. The topics covered include cultural contact, literary representations of the ‘Other’, loan words, contact-induced sound changes, distinctive linguonyms and obscure riddles.

Contributors are Rolf H. Bremmer Jr, Luc de Grauwe, Erika Langbroek, Karin Olsen, Kariem Philippa, Marlies Philippa, Thijs Porck, Arend Quak, Christine Rauer, Annelies Roeleveld, Sander Stolk, Sofie Vanherpen and Redbad Veenbaas.

More information available here.


Tracing Paradigms: One Hundred Years of Neophilologus

Edited by Rolf H. Bremmer Jr, Thijs Porck, Frans Ruiter and Usha Wilbers. s.l.: Springer, 2016.

This volume brings together a selection of pivotal articles published in the hundred years since the launch of the journal Neophilologus. Each article is accompanied by an up-to-date commentary written by former and current editors of the journal. The commentaries position the articles within the history of the journal in particular and within the field of Modern Language Studies in general. As such, this book not only outlines the history of a scholarly journal, but also the history of an entire field.

Contributors are Frederick A. de Armas, Rolf H. Bremmer Jr, Nico van den Boogaard, J. M. Coetzee, José Correa Camiroaga, Roberto Crespo, Fenny Ebels, Edward H. Friedman, Jef Jacobs, Nicholas Joost, Karl Robert Mandelkow, J. C. van Meurs, Sjaak Onderdelinden, Henk Oostendorp, Thijs Porck, Frans Ruiter, Daniel Russell, J. H. Scholte, W. G. Sebald, Paul J. Smith, Rina Walthaus and Usha Wilbers.