Poet of the Medieval Modern: Reading the Early Medieval Library with David Jones

Research output: Book/ReportBook


The early Middle Ages provided twentieth-century poets with the material to reimagine and rework local, religious, and national identities in their writing. Poet of the Medieval Modern focuses on a key figure within this tradition, the Anglo-Welsh poet and artist David Jones (1895–1974), and represents the first extended study of the influence of early medieval culture and history from England on Jones and his novel-length late modernist poem The Anathemata (1952). The Anathemata, the second major poetic project after In Parenthesis (1937), fuses Jones’s visual and verbal arts to write a Catholic history of Britain as told through the history of man-as-artist. Drawing on unpublished archival material including manuscripts, sketches, correspondence, and, most significantly, the marginalia from David Jones’s Library, Poet of the Medieval Modern reads with Jones in order to trouble the distinction we make between poetry and scholarship. Placing this underappreciated figure firmly at the centre of new developments in modernist and medieval studies, Poet of the Medieval Modern brings the two fields into dialogue and argues that Jones uses the textual and material culture of the early Middle Ages—including Old English prose and poetry, Anglo-Latin hagiography, early medieval stone sculpture, manuscripts, and historiography—to re-envision British Catholic identity in the twentieth-century long poem. In The Anathemata Jones returned to the English record to seek out those moments where the histories of the Welsh had been elided or erased. At a time when the Middle Ages are increasingly weaponized in far-right and nationalist political discourse, the book offers a timely discussion of how the early medieval past has been resourced to both shore up and challenge English hegemonies across modern British culture.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages352
ISBN (Print)9780198860136, 9780198860143
Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2021

Publication series

NameTextual Perspectives Series
PublisherOxford University Press


  • medievalism
  • medieval literature
  • late modernism
  • archive studies
  • Old English
  • David Jones

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