In his valedictory address to the University of Oxford (1959), J. R. R. Tolkien noted:
I would always rather try to wring the juice out of a single sentence, or explore the implications of one word than try to sum up a period in a lecture, or pot a poet in a paragraph.
This sort of Kleinphilologie also underlies much of my research: what does a given word mean in the cultural, historical and intellectual context of the text? Does the manuscript reading accurately render the original text? What sources did authors use and how did they adapt their sources to suit their own purposes? Some of my publications have uncovered sources, suggested emendations for manuscript readings and proposed solutions to age-old textual cruces*. Below are my publications which are freely available in Open Access:
*For textual criticism of the Old English poem Beowulf, see the Open Access page for Beowulf.
Columbanus’s De mundi transitu in Early Medieval England: A New Source for an Old English Homily (Irvine VII) in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 343
In: The Anonymous Old English Homily: Sources, Composition, and Variation, ed. Winfried Rudolf & Susan Irvine (Leiden: Brill, 2021), 235-256
This paper, for the first time, calls attention to an Old English paraphrase of over sixty lines of Columbanus’s De mundi transitu in the anonymous Old English composite homily Irvine VII in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 343. The discovery of this source reveals a number of scribal corruptions in the extant versions of both texts and demonstrates that Columbanus’s poem was indeed known in early medieval England. Below, the homily in question is first introduced, followed by a description of De mundi transitu. In the last part of the paper, the two relevant passages of the two texts are analysed.
Open Access link: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004439283_010
Treasures in a Sooty Bag? A Note on Durham Proverb 7
Notes and Queries n.s. 62 (2015), 203-206
This note calls attention to a precursor of the Latin text of Durham Proverb 7 in the ninth-century Collectanea Pseudo-Bedae and, in doing so, sheds some light on the unresolved relationship between the Old English and Latin versions of the Durham Proverbs in general and Durham Proverb 7 in particular.
Open Access link: http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M64746R33
How Cnut Became Canute (and How Harthacnut Became Airdeconut)
NOWELE: North-Western European Language Evolution 67 (2014), 237–243 [with Jodie E. V. Mann]
This article discusses the development of the spelling for the name of Cnut the Great, Viking king of England from 1016 to 1035, from to . The origin of this disyllabic spelling is uncertain and has been attributed to taboo deflection, the simplification of the consonant cluster /kn/ in English and even a pope’s inability to pronounce the name Cnut. A survey of documents contemporary to Cnut the Great and later chronicles, however, suggests that the disyllabic spelling is found first in sources of Norman origin. As such, the disyllabic spelling should be considered a romanisation. This conclusion has important implications for a recently found, early tenth-century coin, bearing the inscription “AIRDECONUT”.
Open Access link: http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M60G3GZ0F
Two Notes on an Old English Confessional Prayer in Vespasian D. XX
Notes and Queries n.s. 60 (2013), 493-498
“In ‘Two Notes on an Old English Confessional Prayer in Vespasian D.xx’ (N&Q 60 493–8), Thijs Porck first suggests that the Vespasian text is a close analogue to the Latin text in the Book of Cerne (Cambridge University Library MS L1.1.10). Listing correspondences between those two and two other Old English prayers in BL MS Tiberius C.i and the Old English Handbook for the Use of a Confessor, he suggests that all four texts ‘may have sprung from a common, Latin original’ (p. 496). Porck’s second note considers the unique word omo in the Vespasian text. Comparing it with lists of body parts in his proposed analogues, he suggests that omo be amended to leomo (‘limbs’).” (R. Fisher et al., ‘Old English’, The Year’s Work in English Studies (2015)
Open Access link: https://doi.org/10.17613/M6804XJ8B