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Magical Verse from Early Medieval England: The Metrical Charms in Context

Fraaije, Karel Felix; (2021) Magical Verse from Early Medieval England: The Metrical Charms in Context. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis contextualises the Old English Metrical Charms, a selection of twelve alliterative texts from early medieval England. These compositions approach poetic language in a different way from most other literary genres. When performed, they should produce changes in the physical world. Their desired results reflect early medieval concerns. Some are occupied with bodily wellbeing and hope to cure sick patients or prevent undesirable conditions. Others focus on restoring material wellbeing, redressing theft or requesting agricultural benefits. Scholars conventionally find the Metrical Charms challenging. There are several reasons for this circumstance. The Old English texts sometimes presuppose an awareness to obscure stories and events, and they employ a poetic register characterised by rare words and neologisms. Similarly, the Metrical Charms blur modern distinctions between science, magic, and religion, maintaining a complicated relationship with Christianity. They also demonstrate intricate transmission patterns: some show influences of written and oral media; most preserve overt and covert connections to texts in other languages. The thesis employs a comparative methodology and examines the Metrical Charms against a broader background of (often medieval but sometimes modern) European charm traditions. Old English charms are rare. Middle English, Latin, German, Dutch, and Scandinavian charms survive in greater numbers and sometimes resemble the Old English texts. The precise relationships between these compositions have remained underexplored. A comparative methodology affords the unique possibility of linking notoriously complex passages in the Metrical Charms to similar sections from analogous texts. The thesis finds this approach is effective in retrieving the meaning of obscure words and phrases. It offers new solutions for some of the field’s most longstanding interpretative problems.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Magical Verse from Early Medieval England: The Metrical Charms in Context
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10132535
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