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The Evolution of Verse Structure in Old and Middle English Poetry

The Evolution of Verse Structure in Old and Middle English Poetry
From the Earliest Alliterative Poems to Iambic Pentameter

£67.99

Part of Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature

  • Date Published: April 2017
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107148338

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  • In this fascinating study, Geoffrey Russom traces the evolution of the major English poetic traditions by reference to the evolution of the English language, and considers how verse forms are born, how they evolve, and why they die. Using a general theory of poetic form employing universal principles rooted in the human language faculty, Russom argues that certain kinds of poetry tend to arise spontaneously in languages with identifiable characteristics. Language changes may require modification of metrical rules and may eventually lead to extinction of a meter. Russom's theory is applied to explain the development of English meters from the earliest alliterative poems in Old and Middle English and the transition to iambic meter in the Modern English period. This thorough yet accessible study provides detailed analyses of form in key poems, including Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and a glossary of technical terms.

    • Traces English alliterative meter from birth to death and discusses the transition to iambic meter in the Renaissance
    • Provides focused, detailed analyses of form in major poems, including Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    • Introduces relevant linguistic information explicitly and provides a comprehensive glossary of technical terms
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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2017
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107148338
    • length: 332 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.6kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. General principles of poetic form
    2. Indo-European and Germanic meters
    3. Old English meter in the era of Beowulf
    4. From late Old English meter to Middle English meter
    5. Middle English type A1 and the hypermetrical b-verse
    6. Type A1 in the a-verse
    7. Types B and C
    8. Survival and extinction in types A2, Da, and E
    9. Type Db and the hypermetrical a-verse
    10. The birth of English iambic meter
    11. General summary.

  • Author

    Geoffrey Russom, Brown University, Rhode Island
    Geoffrey Russom is Emeritus Professor of English and Medieval Studies at Brown University, Rhode Island and Nicholas Brown Professor of Oratory and Belles Lettres, Emeritus. He is the author of Old English Meter and Linguistic Theory (Cambridge, 1987) and Beowulf and Old Germanic Metre (Cambridge, 1998), and has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on the theory of poetic form, the history of the English language, and the artistic excellence of preliterate verse.

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