Riddles at work is the first volume to bring together multiple scholarly voices to explore the vibrant, poetic riddle tradition of early medieval England and its neighbours. The chapters in this book present a wide range of traditional and experimental methodologies. They treat the riddles both as individual poems and as parts of a tradition, but, most importantly, they address Latin and Old English riddles side-by-side, bringing together texts that originally developed in conversation with each other but have often been separated in scholarship. The ‘General Introduction’ situates this book in its scholarly context. Part I, ‘Words’, presents philological approaches to early medieval riddles—interpretations rooted in close readings of texts—for riddles work by making readers question what words really mean. While reading carefully may lead to elegant solutions, however, such solutions are not the end of the riddling game. Part II, ‘Ideas’, thus explores how riddles work to make readers think anew about objects, relationships, and experiences, using literary theory to facilitate new approaches. Part III, ‘Interactions’, explores how riddles work through connections with other fields, languages, times, and places. Together, the sixteen chapters reveal that there is no single, right way to read these texts but many productive paths—some explored here, some awaiting future work.
attempt to impose on it. 28 When it comes to categorisation, the riddles once again pose a challenge to scholars. It is important to note that the riddle genre is not a rigid one but rather one that shares characteristics with many other early medieval literary types: elegiac, heroic, didactic, hagiographic, and devotional, to name just a few. Given this tendency for genre-blending and -borrowing, it would be negligent to approach the ninety-five or so Old English riddles and the several hundred Anglo-Latin enigmata simply as one uniform entity: these are riddles
Wrætlic in Old English Verse’, MP , 114 (2017), 457–81; Peter Ramey, ‘Crafting Strangeness: Wonder Terminology in the Exeter Book Riddles and the Anglo-Latin Enigmata’, RES , 69 (2018), 201–15; Patricia Dailey, ‘Riddles, Wonder, and Responsiveness in Anglo-Saxon Literature’, in The Cambridge History of Early Medieval English Literature , ed. Clare A. Lees (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 451–72; and Rhodes’ Chapter 2 in this volume. For further discussion of the production of sound, see Brooks’ Chapter 4 in this volume. Lines 1–2 recur as the
referential tendencies and social functions that is exemplified by Hansen, Solomon Complex , and Russell G. Poole, Old English Wisdom Poetry , Annotated Bibliographies of Old and Middle English Literature, 5 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1998). 17 Peter Ramey, ‘Crafting Strangeness: Wonder Terminology in the Exeter Book Riddles and the Anglo-Latin Enigmata’, RES , 69 (2018), 201–15, shows the Exeter Book riddles’ exceptionally strong endorsement of a sense of the marvellous; quotation from p. 202. 18 Niles observes that ‘if a riddle were an orchestral piece, then