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Verbal Encounters

Verbal Encounters: Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse Studies for Roberta Frank

Antonina Harbus
Russell Poole
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Verbal Encounters
    Book Description:

    Due to conquests and colonialism through the centuries, it is not unusual for languages and cultures to be influenced by other, foreign languages and cultures. The modern English language, for example, owes many of its words to Old Norse and Latin, debts dating from contacts made during the Middle Ages.Verbal Encountersis a collection of papers on the cultural and linguistic exchange in Old Norse, Old English, and medieval Latin literature written in honour of Roberta Frank, former University Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.

    The essays feature new scholarship in the field, on topics such as the integral position of Anglo-Latin within Anglo-Saxon culture and literature, constructions of feminine strength and effectiveness in Anglo-Saxon literature, the rise of Latin-based learning in twelfth-century Iceland, medieval Icelandic religious poetry, and the conversion to Christianity in medieval Scandinavia.

    The essays inVerbal Encountersare not merely a fitting tribute to Roberta Frank, but also strong contributions to current scholarship on medieval literature and culture.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8302-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Notes on Editions
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    Antonina Harbus and Russell Poole

    As of speech, so of scholars. Although a wealth of things could be said of Roberta Frank, here we shall abide by Ælfric’s dictum and maintain a fitting brevity.

    Roberta herself has contributed so much, in the classroom, in publications, and in fora of other kinds, and she has made these contributions with a graceful unassuming lightness of touch. At their centre lie a love of both words and people, perhaps necessarily accompanied by a fascination with the words of love, engagement, understanding, and reconciliation that people have used down the centuries and a gentle deprecation of bellicose attitudes towards...

  7. Part I On Words

    • 1 Early Medieval Chaos
      (pp. 15-38)
      Christopher A. Jones

      ‘For a philologist, even a small word can mask a shaft so bottomless that probes dropped into it produce no more than an echo.’² In essays on the Old English loanwordsorc‘drinking vessel’ancor‘anchor,’ Roberta Frank has led the way through histories not only deep but mazy with the turns of medieval etymology and wordplay.³ Similar forces operated no less often, but have drawn less attention, in medieval Latin vocabulary.⁴ The following essay explores a few of the stranger legacies of early medieval erudition about another deceptively small word,chaos. Unlike orcs and anchors,chaosdid not become...

    • 2 Composing and Joining: How the Anglo-Saxons Talked about Compounding
      (pp. 39-54)
      Don Chapman

      In the course of her career, Roberta Frank has repeatedly illuminated the Anglo-Saxons’ ways with words, whether poetic words likewigaandhygein prose, blends likeþrymnes, or play on words likeweard,werod, andword.¹ Indeed, the writings of Anglo-Saxons show much creativity with words. The creative compounds in Old English poetry and the neologisms in hermeneutic Latin prose are both well known.² As outsiders, we certainly are aware of such neologisms and creative coinages when we encounter them. But how aware were the Anglo-Saxons? What self-conscious attitudes would learned Anglo-Saxons have had towards the words they created...

    • 3 Cennan, ʻto cause to be bornʼ/ ʻto cause to knowʼ: Incarnation as Revelation in Old English Literature
      (pp. 55-76)
      Pauline Head

      The Old English verbcennanembraces two quite distinct meanings. Several of its senses gather around the idea of generation:cennansignifies begetting or giving birth to a child, or the production of organic or inorganic matter. Its other senses share the basic meaning ‘to cause to know.’ These two areas of signification are sufficiently disparate thatcennanis defined as two words by several dictionaries;² the morphological development of the verb, however, does not seem to indicate that it grew out of two distinct words with historically different forms and meanings.

      Ācennancan almost always be translated ‘to conceive’...

    • 4 Pride, Courage, and Anger: The Polysemousness of Old English Mōd
      (pp. 77-88)
      Soon-Ai Low

      In Anglo-Saxon depictions of personal experience, the interior principle denoted bymōdwas a salient component.Mōdfeatures prominently in many narrative depictions of inward experience: the notion of building Heorot, for instance, occurs to Hrothgar in hismōd(Beo 67: ‘him on mod bearn’), and inThe Seafarer, hunger gnaws away at the sea-wearymōd(ll. 11-12: ‘hungor innan slat / merewerges mod’). In prose, the use ofmōdto portray the inner life is well exemplified by citations such as LS 23 (Mary of Egypt) 424: ‘þa onhran soðlice min mod ... hælo andgit’ (Then, truly, the understanding...

  8. Part II On Anglo-Latin and Old English Prose

    • 5 Desipere in loco: Style, Memory, and the Teachable Moment
      (pp. 91-104)
      Carin Ruff

      Let me propose a false taxonomy of grammarians. All grammarians may be classified into two types: those who possess a sense of humour, and those who do not. Donatus, if not thefons et origoof the humourless type, would certainly be the type’s chief exemplar for the Middle Ages, as he characterizes the spare, technical style: categorize, list, define, exemplify, move on. Alcuin, as in the example above, has a strong claim to speak for the humorous group: while ordinarily sober of style and purpose, he recognizes the value of a wellplaced joke. The exchange on the interjection quoted...

    • 6 Courtroom Drama and the Homiletic Monologues of The Vercelli Book
      (pp. 105-124)
      Dorothy Haines

      In her essay ‘Poetic Words in Late Old English Prose,’ Roberta Frank examines the occasional use in prose of words otherwise found only in poetry. A majority of these occur in the homiletic literature, and in discussing the most common contexts for this heightened use of language, she notes that ‘poetic words apparently prefer direct or reported speech to straight narrative’ and that ‘homilists in oral performance may have found it easier to put poetic words in the mouths of others.’¹ We already knew that certain homilists were given to rhetorical embellishment according to their abilities and inclination; the named...

  9. Part III On Old English Poetry

    • 7 ʻHim Þæs grim lean becomʼ: The Theme of Infertility in Genesis A
      (pp. 127-144)
      Karin Olsen

      Although it is now generally agreed that theGenesis Apoet did not slavishly paraphrase the Book of Genesis 1:1 to 22:1, his poetic technique has not always received sufficient attention. The reason for this relative neglect is readily discernible. By reproducing and interpreting the biblical text as traditional patristic and exegetical commentary required, the poet certainly did not take the poetic liberties that can be found inExodusor evenDaniel. Paul Remley, for example, has recently calledGenesis A‘atour-de-forceof bilingual (Latin-Old English) lexical negotiation,’ which ‘reproduces nearly all of the episodic contents and most of...

    • 8 Odd Characters: Runes in Old English Poetry
      (pp. 145-162)
      Robert DiNapoli

      The use of runes in some Old English poems offers hints as to how the poets regarded this strange and limited inheritance of pre-Christian literacy. To Christian authors such as Ælfric and Cynewulf, runes must have felt both familiar and uncanny. The conventions of scribal shorthand, whereby the scribe could use the runic charactersdӕgorman, for example, in place of the words themselves, point to two likelihoods: first, that the runic alphabet was familiar enough for a scribe to use it in what seems an almost offhand way, just as a modern writer might use an ampersand with...

    • 9 The Education of Beowulf and the Affair of the Leisure Class
      (pp. 163-182)
      Haruko Momma

      In the region of Anglo-Saxon studiesBeowulfis a heavily ploughed field where, after almost two hundred years of rich harvesting, the labourers are often caught in the exasperating feeling that they have already gathered everything to be yielded from the poem’s 3182 lines, that they are now left with little prospect for a new crop. In writing yet another essay onBeowulf, I hope to draw inspiration from Roberta Frank’s comment that ‘there is always the chance that one’s own peculiar perspective may suggest new lines of inquiry, add something ... to the small kernel of evidence that is safe...

    • 10 Articulate Contact in Juliana
      (pp. 183-200)
      Antonina Harbus

      Cynewulf’sJulianais a poem alive with the power of words. As in many other Old English literary saint’s lives, direct discourse drives the narrative, and the choice and deployment of words appears to be at the heart of the poetic enterprise. This poem exploits verbal encounters on both these textual levels. Spoken words seem also to be implicated in the notion of sanctity that informs this text and shapes its didactic agenda. InJuliana, holiness is manifest in verbal straight-forwardness, combined with a tendency in her adversaries to use the spoken word to cajole, attack, or deceive the heroine....

  10. Part IV On Old Norse Literature

    • 11 The Refracted Beam: Einarr Skúlasonʼs Liturgical Theology
      (pp. 203-222)
      Martin Chase

      Everyone who knows anything about the twelfth-century Icelandic skald Einarr Skúlason agrees that he was one of the most learned men of his age, an assessment which his contemporaries clearly also shared. Unfortunately, nothing is known of how and where he acquired his learning. Biographical information found inþinga saga,Morkinskinna, andSkáldataltells us that although Einarr spent much of his life in diplomatic service as a travelling skald, he was also a priest. In addition to his training as a skald, he must have had the typical clerical education of his day.¹ Evidence for precisely what this may...

    • 12 Beardless Wonders: ʻGaman vas Sǫxuʼ (The Sex Was Great)
      (pp. 223-246)
      Oren Falk

      Since the 1960s, scholars of Old Norse literature have consistently been pricking holes in Snorri Sturluson’s confident (and perhaps tongue in cheek) assertion that skaldic verse is historically truthful.² Gone now from the halls of historical veracity are theberserkir, gone is the blood eagle, even Kvasir has been reduced from authentic pagan myth to frothy antiquarian fantasy³ — at least, such is the fate to which philological exorcists have consigned them, though many historians still stubbornly cling to their ghosts. The present paper, an historian’s amateur pecking at some verse morsels fromGísla saga Súrssonar(and, I hope, more...

    • 13 Prophetic Dreams and Visions in the Sagas of the Early Icelandic Saints
      (pp. 247-268)
      Bernadine McCreesh

      The belief that revelations can be sent via dreams is widespread. As A.C. Spearing says: ‘Most people cling instinctively to the notion that dreams are composed in a language which is intelligible in principle, though it requires interpretation.’¹ Many ancient peoples in particular believed that the future could be revealed while a person slept. In the Old Testament, for example, dreams were considered to be divine in origin. Although prophetic dreams could be sent to non-Jews, only Jewish prophets had the power to decipher them, as can be seen from the stories of Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams (Gen. 40-1)...

    • 14 Claiming Kin Skaldic-Style
      (pp. 269-284)
      Russell Poole

      We think of early English and Scandinavian poets as eager seekers after gifts, not always overly fussy about which patrons they obtain them from.¹ Widsith, the archetypal and obviously fictive travelling poet, has gift-giving occasions at the warm centre of his speech:

      Swylce ic wæs on Eatule mid Ælfwine,

      se hæfde moncynnes, mine gefræge,

      leohteste hond lofes to wyrcenne,

      heortan unhneaweste hringa gedales,

      beorhtra beaga, beam Eadwines. (Wid 70-4)

      Likewise I was in Italy with Ælfwine, who, to my knowledge, of mankind, had the readiest hand to win praise, the least niggardly heart in the sharing out of rings, bright...

    (pp. 285-286)
  12. Index
    (pp. 287-298)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 299-299)