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Circolwyrde 2007: New Electronic Resources for Anglo-Saxon Studies


Edward Christie, Georgia State University

Circolwyrde is an annual OEN feature which considers digital resources that have been developed or substantially revised in the past year or so or that have not been mentioned in previous surveys. The title Circolwyrde is a hapax legomenon from Byrhtferth's Manual that means "mathematician" (literally "the state or event of cycles"). Carl Berkhout reinvents the term as "computer" in his neologized lexicon of Old English technology terms (Circolwyrde Wordhord, http://www.u.arizona.edu/~ctb/wordhord.html), and thus renders it an apt embodiment of Anglo-Saxon digital resources. Circolwyrde's coverage has no pretensions to comprehensiveness, and the author welcomes notices of any other new or substantially revised electronic materials or commercial products. Please send any such notices to Edward Christie at echristie@gsu.edu.


Dictionaries and Resources

The latest version of the Dictionary of Old English Online has recently been released and now includes Fascicle G as well as revised versions of Fascicles A-F. The online version is accessed by subscription at institutional and individual rates and includes a number of new features, including hotlinks to the Oxford English Dictionary, a bibliography of Latin texts referred to in the Dictionary, and advanced boolean searching that allows users to combine two or more fields in any given search. The CD-ROM version will soon be available and can be ordered from the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies. The editors of the Dictionary of Old English encourage feedback from all users. For more information, please see the "News and Announcements" section of this issue.

The Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, scanned and transcribed under Sean Crist's supervision at the Germanic Lexicon Project several years ago, was made available as an application for Mac users last year (see http://www.davidfinucane.com/bosworthToller.html for details). Now an entirely separate version for Windows 2000/XP has been created by Onrej Tichy (http://lexicon.ff.cuni.cz/app/). This application allows users to view either the original scanned pages or a text version (which is easier on the eyes, and which can also be cut and pasted conveniently). The application and images are downloaded in separate files and the application works without the images, which are large and take some time to download even over a fast connection. The images (which appear normal when viewed directly from the desktop) appeared stretched and unreadable when I tried to view them in the application; otherwise the application runs very smoothly.

The Historical Thesaurus of English is now accessible at at http://libra.englang.arts.gla.ac.uk/historicalthesaurus/. This project is a semantically organized thesaurus of English from Old English to the present day, based largely on the OED2 but also including the materials from A Thesaurus of Old English. It will give the first complete picture in such a format of how the vocabulary has developed, and should be of particular interest to Anglo-Saxonists interested in the transition to Middle English. The Historical Thesaurus will also be published by Oxford University Press in book form as The Thesaurus of the OED. A teaching package, parallel to the one for TOE, will be released later in the year.

Michael Drout's "King Alfred's Grammar Book" (http://michaeldrout.com/) is available online; the associated Java Powered Teaching Program is due to be released later in 2008. Drout has also recorded the entire corpus of Old English poetry as a series of podcasts, available from his website or directly from iTunes, and has released his reading of Beowulf as a 3-CD set entitled Beowulf Aloud, available for $20 (plus $5 shipping). Fans of Professor Drout's work can also order T-shirts, coffee mugs, and mousepads emblazoned with the Beowulf Aloud logo.

Murray McGillivray, whose exemplary Old English course website (http://www.ucalgary.ca/UofC/eduweb/engl401/) is already well known, has begun an Online Corpus of Old English Poetry (OCOEP), an edition of the Anglo-Saxon Poetic Record (http://www.oepoetry.ca). Based on the HTML versions already available through the Labyrinth site at Georgetown Univeristy, but consulting manuscripts, online images, and other editions, this project aims to provide a fully glossed and annotated version of the corpus. At this stage many of the texts remain in the basic form to be found at Labyrinth, but the potential of the project is amply demonstrated by the OCOEP hypertexts-in-progress of major poems like Beowulf, The Dream of the Rood, and Deor.

Digital Historian (http://www.arts-humanities.net/digital_historian) is an online community dedicated to the discussion of all issues relating to the use of technology for historical scholarship. It features a series of interviews with practitioners who are actively involved in this field, and users are encouraged to comment on these postings and all other material. Digital Historian is hosted by the Digital Arts and Humanities net, which hosts discussions and reports events related to digital humanities.


Pedagogical Tools

Verbix is a non-profit organization that, according to its homepage, "aims to promote and protect linguistic diversity." Verbix has created a web-based verb conjugator, also available in downloadable form for Windows, for a number of languages both ancient and modern, including Old English, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Old Norse, and Old Occitan. The Old English conjugator can be found at http://www.verbix.com/languages/oldenglish.shtml. Apparently a "WebVerbix Pro" version is available which offers more features (and none of the odd Google-generated advertisements one usually sees when searching for medieval topics, such as "Old English: Huge selection of Old English items at Target.com").

Edwin Duncan's History of the English Language course site (http://pages.towson.edu/duncan/helhome.html) provides a series of excellent video presentations which include an Introduction to Old English Language and Writing, the Indo-European Language Family, and Old English Paleography. The videos stream directly from the website through an attractive and smoothly functioning interface, and all are narrated by Professor Duncan. The videos themselves graphically step students through the basics of their topics by highlighting selected sections of manuscripts or charts.

The Linguistics Research Center at UT Austin's Old English Online (http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/eieol/engol-0-X.html) is a ten-lesson series based on close reading of Old English texts. The site is part of a set of comprehensive Indo-European Course guides by the Center's faculty (including Jonathon Slocum and Winfred Lehmann who, sadly, passed away in August 2007). The "Grammar Points" that supplement the lessons in fact constitute an almost complete online Old English Grammar. The wider Indo-European frame for the Old English lessons provides useful supplements, such as maps of Germanic Kingdoms and Anglo-Saxon migrations.

Susan Oldrieve and her undergraduate students at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, OH have created Uncovering Old English Texts (http://homepages.bw.edu/~uncover/index.html), a "resource by undergraduates for undergraduates." The site displays translations of Old English poetry by Professor Oldrieve and the students themselves; it should prove to be both a resource for and an inspiration to other students.

Old English Literature: A Hypertext Course Pack (http://www.english.ox.ac.uk/coursepack/) includes annotated editions of Old English works including representative samples of Bede and Ælfric as well as Beowulf and the poetry of the Exeter Book. With running glosses, a choice of translations, links to images, audio recordings, and critical articles accessible through JSTOR, this functional, elegant website should prove a very usable resource for teaching. UK academics can download the entire site from the JORUM higher education repository service to use on local computers.



Benjamin Bagby's famous performance of Beowulf is (as of Summer 2006) available on DVD and can be ordered from his website (http://www.bagbybeowulf.com/index.html). Bagby is currently on the faculty of the Sorbonne University in Paris where he teaches in the master's program for medieval musical performance and practice. On the DVD he performs Beowulf entirely in Old English and accompanies the tale on a six-string harp similar to one unearthed at Sutton Hoo. Bagby's simple, attractive website provides a sample video of the DVD and information about upcoming performances.

Stuart Lee has mounted a series of podcasts at the Oxford University Medieval Literature Series (http://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/site/human/english/staff/stuart/podcasts/). These podcasts are introductory lectures on Old English delivered between January 2007-2008. They can be found online through various podcast purveyors, but iTunes users can access them most easily by subscribing to the series. There are currently a dozen lectures of 50–60 minutes each, recorded live in the lecture hall. Lee's commitment to conveying Old English in an engaging, humane style makes this series an excellent introduction to the subject.

Anglo-Saxon topics are often snagged in the wide net cast by BBC Radio 4's "In Our Time," a weekly talk show whose venerable and indefatigable host Melvyn Bragg leads a panel of academics in conversations on topics ranging from the Poincaré Conjecture to the Nicene Creed. A few of the most directly relevant discussions in the past few years have been on Bede, Alfred, St. Hilda, the "Norman Yoke," and the Lindisfarne Gospels; participants in the discussions have included Michelle Brown, Sarah Foot, John Blair, Richard Gameson, and the dulcet Clare Lees. These broadcasts can now be heard at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/ (Realplayer is required to listen to them). Afterwards, those tired of the Howard Stern Show might explore the archives further to find entertaining and enlightening discussions on Abelard and Heloise, the Abbassid Caliphate, the Aeneid, Agincourt, Albert Camus, Alchemy, Altruism, Anarchism, Antimatter, Archaeology and Imperialism, Archimedes, the Assassination of Tsar Alexander II, and Avicenna, without even exhausting the letter A.


Google Books

Whatever else it may be, Google Books (http://books.google.com/) is a surprisingly rich resource for Anglo-Saxon studies. Google's controversial aim is to "digitize the world's books to make them easier for people to find and buy"; they liken the significance of this project to another media revolution, the invention of the printing press. Although many remain skeptical about or suspicious of Google's rhetoric of "access for everyone," their digitization project does make it easy to read the tables of contents and sample pages of recently published books online. Even more usefully, books now in the public domain—including Henry Sweet's various readers, primers and dictionaries, Benjamin Thorpe's Homilies of the Anglo-Saxon Church (which remains the only full translation of Ælfric's Catholic Homilies), several editions of Sharon Turner's History of the Anglo-Saxons (whose changing opinions chart the development of Anglo-Saxon studies in the 19th century), and the original edition of Liebermann's Gesetze der Angelsachsen—can be searched, viewed online, or downloaded in their entirety as .pdf files. The images contained in these are not always of the highest quality, which raises troubling questions about the whole enterprise even as it makes these old and precious books readily available to many of us for the first time. Google also provides a page of resources regarding their legal dispute with the American Association of Publishers, publicizing the debate over what constitutes "fair use" of copyright material. Although not an academic resource, this may supply pertinent information to anyone interested in the legal ramifications of large-scale digitization.


Important Indices

Most of the following resources are not actually new, but because of their utility each year's Circolwyrde ends with such a list. Though dozens of Anglo-Saxon hyper-indices may be found on the Web, few are as comprehensive or as mindfully updated (i.e., fewer "dead" links, though these seem to be inevitable to some degree) as those listed below. If you are looking for a particular aspect of Anglo-Saxon language, history, culture or literature, start with these trusted indices.

Digital Medievalist (http://www.digitalmedievalist.org/), the web community for medievalists working with digital media, continues to grow and thrive as a source for news, articles, and international communication in the field. The site was revamped during 2007 to increase reliability, and now features an enhanced news server that allows members to publish their own announcements more easily.

The Old English Pages are now a part of the Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies (ORB); the Anglo-Saxon section of ORB (http://www.the-orb.net/encyclop/early/pre1000/asindex.html) contains original essays, a substantial list of online texts and editions, and a broad range of teaching materials, other indices, and links to professional organizations. ORB encourages submissions, and directs users to http://orb.rhodes.edu/text/about.html for further information.

Ansaxdat (http://www.mun.ca/Ansaxdat/), the full-text database for the Listserv discussion group ANSAXNET, allows one to search through thousands of postings from the past fifteen years for specific discussions of Anglo-Saxon studies. Sadly, the proportion of wheat to chaff continues to decline on this venerable listserv, but the archive still contains much that is useful, enlightening, and entertaining.

The online journal The Heroic Age maintains a sizable list of Anglo-Saxon links (http://members.aol.com/heroicage1/as.htm), ranging from the institutional to the local level, and including hyperindices of bibliography, history, archaeology, literature, education, art, manuscripts, religion, projects and journals.

The Labyrinth Library, Old English Literature (http://labyrinth.georgetown.edu/; choose "Old English" and "All fields") provides a basic but lengthy set of Old English links. The Labyrinth's alphabetical index to Old English poetry (http://www.georgetown.edu/labyrinth/library/oe/alpha.html) provides quick access to almost all Old English poems. Additionally, Labyrinth has indexed its resources in a database, allowing for quick and concise searching of its architecture.

Though the Teachers of Old English in Britain and Ireland (TOEBI) Web Resources Page (http://www.hcu.ox.ac.uk/toebi/www.html) includes textual and cultural catalogues similar to the indices described above, TOEBI's strength lies in its list of on-line teaching materials.

The Humbul Humanities Hub has merged with, or been consumed by, Intute: Arts & Humanities (http://www.intute.ac.uk/artsandhumanities/), "a free online service providing you with access to the best Web resources for education and research." Searching on "Anglo-Saxon" or "Old English" reveals hundreds of records for relevant on-line resources, each evaluated and annotated by a specialist reviewer.

Modesty does not prevent us from closing with a mention of our own website, http://www.oenewsletter.org/OEN/, which offers a number of resources we hope will be useful for Anglo-Saxon studies, including frequently updated news and announcements, searchable conference abstracts from 2000 to the present, an archive of essays and reports (including the one you are reading now) and a link to the OEN Bibliography Database (http://www.oenewsletter.org/OENDB/), a searchable bibliography of over 20,000 items from more than thirty years of the annual OEN Bibliography.