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The Composition of Old English Poetry


  • Page extent: 220 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.333 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521030762)

This book offers an imaginative way of understanding the relationship between syntax and metre in Old English verse. It challenges the view that Old English poetry is composed in loose syntax to compensate for the strict requirements of prosody, such as metre and alliteration. It proposes instead that Old English poetry has incorporated prosody into its system. This 'prosodical' syntax is intended to replace the famous syntactic laws of Hans Kuhn through its greater accuracy and wider range of application. The author formulates three concise rules which apply not only to Beowulf and other classic Anglo-Saxon poems but to the entire Old English poetic corpus. Prosodical syntax bears witness to the oral origin of Old English poetry and sheds light on some aspects of performance: it enables the poet to produce an infinite variety of verse while keeping its grammar clear.

• Develops an alternative theory of Old English prosody • Applies to the whole body of Old English verse • Contributes also to the orality/literacy debate


List of figures; Preface; List of abbreviations; 1. Introduction; 2. Hierarchy of verse-likeness; 3. Word classification; 4. Kuhn's Laws and prosodical syntax; 5. Attached unstressed elements; 6. Detached unstressed elements; 7. Stressed elements; 8. Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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