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Approaches to Teaching the Middle English Pearl,
edited by Jane Beal and Mark Bradshaw Busbee. New York:
The Modern Language Association of America, 2018. Pp. 262.

Reviewer: Dr. Michael Boecherer, Suffolk County Community College

(June 2018 Issue / PDF)

Approaches to Teaching the Middle English Pearl is a useful study that one may easily utilize inside the classroom. Edited by Jane Beal and Mark Bradshaw Busbee, the collection of essays provides readers with an enormous amount of material. The edition is readable, extremely accessible to veteran and first time faculty, and provides readers with a number of engaging classroom ideas. One should read this text, especially if one is currently teaching or planning on teaching an undergraduate or graduate level medieval survey course.

The text is divided into two primary sections. Section one of Beal and Busbee’s edition is the smaller of the two. This section revolves around “Materials,” and is useful in that it makes sense of the various translations of Pearl currently available to scholars. Online editions -- such as the Cotton Nero A.x Project – are discussed within the context of the most modern dual-language print edition translations of the text. Discussion is also given to notable academic books, dissertation studies, and some of the more basic introductory studies of Pearl. This is done to evaluate the strengths of various Pearl translations and to give readers a sense of how later editions built upon predecessors. This section of the Beal/Busbee study is extremely interesting; it demonstrates to scholars and students the vast amount of work accomplished on translating Pearl and gives ideas for what is still to be attempted.

Section two of Beal and Busbee’s edition is broken into a number of smaller categories. Labeled “Approaches,” this section of the text comprises of essays on the following topics: “Historical Approaches and Contexts,” “Literary and Theoretical Approaches,” “Comparative Approaches,” and “Specific Classroom Contexts.” The essays found here are both intriguing and thought provoking, as they encourage faculty to rethink traditional approaches, (i.e., “Teaching the Allegory and Symbolism of Pearl”) and to try methods that may be a bit unorthodox for some (i.e., “Performing Pearl,” and “Pearl and Medieval Dream-Vision Traditions in a Graduate Seminar: Genre, Mode, and Gender”). These essays are well written, well thought, and extremely accessible.

Approaches to Teaching the Middle English Pearl ends with an appendix of study questions that readers are sure to find useful, particularly in an undergraduate setting. First time instructors may find these questions beneficial for starting classroom conversation or for directing low stakes assignments. The questions are certainly a nice way for Beal and Busbee to end their edition.

As stated, Approaches to Teaching the Middle English Pearl is a wonderful text meant to generate ideas. It can often be hard to rethink a class that one has taught multiple times, or to attempt teaching a text that one has only read. Approaches to Teaching the Middle English Pearl is certainly geared towards both groups of individuals and is therefore worth the time and the read.


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