By Paul Cunningham
Jonathan Evans’s An Introduction to Old English was published by the Modern Language Association in Spring 2021. At 802 pages, the book is the culmination of some 25 years’ work compiling, expanding, correcting, and revising drafts of the text-in-progress in collaboration with students enrolled annually in his Old English classes. “It was classroom-tested and revised annually with helpful suggestions from the 652 students to whom I taught the language from 1994 to 2019,” said Evans. The book is the fifth in the MLA’s “Older Languages” series, which includes volumes on the Gothic language, Old French, Old Irish, and Old Occitan.
Writing in The Medieval Review online in September, Caroline Batten described the book as “an effective, impeccably researched, and highly innovative pedagogical text.” The book goes systematically through essential points of Old English grammar while at the same time moving chronologically through annals of early English history selected from the Peterborough Chronicle for reading and translation.
“The original – I’d like to say, ‘creative’ – idea that guided the book’s development from the start,” said Evans, “was to introduce the salient points of Old English grammar in a logical sequence while simultaneously tracing chronologically the outlines of early English history from the beginnings to the Norman Conquest and beyond. Students of Old English literature, I’ve found, seldom know anything of the history of the culture that produced such classic early literary works as “The Wanderer,” “The Seafarer,” and “The Dream of the Rood,” not to mention, of course, Beowulf. The book hopes to address that problem.”
In closing her review, Batten writes, “An Introduction to Old English presents a well-designed, substantive, and entirely authoritative course plan for the teaching of Old English in its linguistic and historical context, making it a valuable contribution to medieval language pedagogy.”
Jonathan Evans is a professor in the English Department and in the Department of Linguistics
In February 2021, the BBC World News’ “The Cultural Frontline” podcast featured Aruni Kashyap in conversation with reporter and filmmaker Nawal Al-Maghafi. “In the morning I write in Assamese, in the evening I write in English,” explains Kashyap, responding to a wide array of topics including multilingualism; how the literary imagination has been affected by writing in indigenous languages; and the award-winning author’s own role as one of the jurors for the 2020 JCB Prize for Literature. In an Eastern Eye interview, when Asjad Nazir asks “why” readers should pick up a copy of the new UK edition of My Father’s Disease, Kashyap responds: “Because it will show you how the conventional understanding of Indian English writing is changing due to the new English writing produced by citizens in its margins.”
A finalist for the 2018 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize and the 2018 Four Way Books Levis Award in Poetry, There is No Good Time for Bad News, Kashyap’s debut poetry collection, was released in April, 2021 and met with much acclaim: “Kashyap’s poems bear witness to the enduring effects of living under protracted state violence” (Electric Literature); “In the absence of formal justice, the literary representation of traumatized people allows Kashyap to create a space for remembrance and mourning of lives lost during the violent history of the Assam insurgency” (Ploughshares); “Kashyap gives voice to a previously unheard pain, demonstrating how poets redeem us when recorded or reported history fails” (Grist Journal); and the Chicago Review of Books says the poetry collection gives a “sense of hope amid cruel realities.” Kashyap has shared some of the challenges of writing There is No Good Time for Bad News, noting that “the voices of the survivors took precedence” (The Rumpus). His message to readers is an important one: “Learn from and support voices from the Northeast […] I wish we had freedom from powerful people telling our own stories to us. I wish we were allowed to tell our own stories” (Catapult).