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University of Oxford Faculty of English

Atherton, Mark

Position: College Tutor and Lecturer, Regent's Park College
College: Regent's Park
Period/Subject: Medieval; Language

Email address: 

Research Interests:

One area of my research is broadly linguistic. I am interested in Old English as a language. As author of the textbook Teach Yourself Old English I am particularly concerned with methods and approaches to teaching the language. Taking my York DPhil thesis further I am publishing articles on the development of linguistic thought and language theory in the nineteenth century esp. the work of Henry Sweet and his circle, phonetics, approaches to language teaching, education, and the ‘new philology’.

There is some overlap with my literary research here, such as developments in Anglo-Saxon studies and the influence of Old English poetry on writers of the time. I am preparing a book on the philology of J.R.R. Tolkien and its influence on his fictional writings and will contribute a chapter ‘Tolkien and Old English’ to a Tolkien Companion ed. Stuart Lee.

My literary research focuses on narrative prose in the late Old English period: innovations, developments in religious, homiletic and Chronicle writings; its relation to the narrative art of the time (e.g. Illustrated Hexateuch, Bayeux Tapestry); further, the reigns of Cnut and Edward the Confessor and their varied literary culture (in poetry and prose; in English, Norse, Latin, French). I have articles in preparation on the Old English narratives ‘The Legend of the Seven Sleepers’, The Story of Joseph’, ‘Apollonius of Tyre’ - their relation to their Latin sources, and the cultural and historical background.
Recent published articles have covered the following topics: Henry Sweet’s approaches to language description, the influence of his Anglo-Saxon Reader on twentieth-century poets such as Pound, anthropology and philology in late nineteenth century, the teaching of modern languages in Victorian England.

Previous publications include Hildegard of Bingen: Selected Writings (London: Penguin, 2001), Celts and Christians: New Approaches to the Religious Traditions of Britain and Ireland (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002), and Teach Yourself Old English (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2006, new edition 2010).

Teaching Areas:

Old English; Middle English; History; Use and Theory of the English Language.

Recent Publications:


'Priming the Poets: the Making of Henry Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Reader', in Anglo-Saxon Culture and the Modern Imagination, ed. Nick Perkins and David Clark, Boydell & Brewer (2010)

Jounral Articles:

'Imaginative Science: The Interactions of Henry Sweet’s Linguistic Thought and E. B. Taylor’s Anthropology', Historiographia Linguistica, vol. 37, issue 41306, doi:10.1075/hl.37.1/2.02ath (2010)

'"The Globe of Language": Thomas Prendergast and Applied Linguistics in the 1870s', Language and History, vol. 53, issue 1, doi:10.1179/175975310X12640878626101 (2010)

'"To observe things as they are without regard to their origin": Henry Sweet's general writings on language in the 1870s', The Henry Sweet Society for the History of Linguistic Ideas Bulletin, vol 51 (2008)

Other Information:

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