Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Aesthetics of Nostalgia

Just a few moments ago, Renée Trilling came into my office proudly displaying a copy of her brand new book The Aesthetics of Nostalgia: Historical Representation in Old English Verse (University of Toronto Press).

Here is the book description provided by the press: "Heroic poetry was central to the construction of Anglo-Saxon values, beliefs, and community identity and its subject matter is often analyzed as a window into Anglo-Saxon life. However, these poems are works of art as well as vehicles for ideology. Aesthetics of Nostalgia reads Anglo-Saxon historical verse in terms of how its aesthetic form interacted with the culture and politics of the period.

Examining the distinctive poetic techniques found in vernacular historic poetry, Rene Trilling argues that the literary construction of heroic poetry promoted specific kinds of historical understanding in early medieval England, distinct from linear and teleological perceptions of the past. The Aesthetics of Nostalgia surveys Anglo-Saxon literary culture from the age of Bede to the decades following the Norman Conquest in order to explore its cultural impact through both its content and its form."

This has been a very big week for Professor Trilling, who also just finished hosting an exciting 2-day conference here on campus called "Theorizing Anglo-Saxon Studies" that was, by all accounts, a great success too. It takes a lot of work and skill to organize and run a conference like this, and of course scholarly books like The Aesthetics of Nostalgia are also the product of innumerable hours of solitary study. It is wonderful (and very impressive, I might add) to see all of this labor come to fruition all at once. Congratulations, Renée!

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