Introduction: Beowulf or Brutus of Troy?
Strabone offers a new theory of poetry’s role in the rise of nationalism. It provides an important revision to Benedict Anderson’s account of European nationalism in Imagined Communities and new insights about poetics, print media, and medievalism. The book’s Archipelagic approach to British literature and history devotes roughly equal attention to England, Scotland, and Wales. This chapter draws on England’s legal and ecclesiastical history to highlight the absence of early modern interest in pre-Chaucerian poetry, including Beowulf. Instead, Elizabethan textual antiquarians used pre-Norman laws and sermons—but not poetry—to antiquate the history of the Kingdom and Church of England. The chapter includes a thorough review of scholarship on nationalism, mediation, and Romanticism, and explains how poetic metre can be used as an epistemological tool.