Dr Francis Leneghan

I work on Old English literature, in particular heroic poetry, biblical translation, and Alfredian writing. dynastic drama of beowulf front cover 2

dynastic drama of beowulf front cover 2

My forthcoming monograph, The Dynastic Drama of Beowulf, Anglo-Saxon Studies 39 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2020), unravels the web of Scandinavian royal legends known to the original audience of Beowulf. The book offers a new interpretation of the work’s structure based on the principle of the dynastic life-cycle and provides explanations for features of the poem that have never been satisfactorily explained, most famously its many digressions and episodes. Highlighting the work’s originality, it proposes that the poet created a fictionalized monster-slaying hero and inserted him into royal legend in order to dramatize moments of dynastic crisis. It also brings into focus the poet’s debt to biblical paradigms of kingship and shows how the Anglo-Saxons came to read Beowulf as their own Book of Kings.  

My next major project is a book on voice in texts associated with King Alfred. This book will explore how English writers in the late-ninth and early-tenth centuries revoiced works by respected figures such as King David, Gregory the Great, Bede, Augustine and Orosius in order to fashion a recognisable and authoritative Alfredian voice. Connected with this project, I am co-organising a symposium on 'Rethinking English Literary Culture in the Age of Alfred' (Oxford, June 2020) with Dr Amy Faulkner (UCL).