The author reviews the theory and history of 'Oral-Formulaic' criticism and its application to Middle English Alliterative Verse. He conducts a full and detailed analysis of the formulaic character of the diction of four widely divergent alliterative poems:
Joseph of Arimathie, Death and Liffe, Saint Erkenwald and
Scotish Feilde, placing each within the larger alliterative tradition. Major scholarly appendices provide the evidence for the arguments advanced as to the particular nature of each poem.