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Store of Common Sense: Gnomic Theme and Style in Old Icelandic and Old English Wisdom Poetry (Oxford English Monographs Series)

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Overview

A Store of Common Sense is the first comparative study in English of Old Icelandic and Old English wisdom poetry. It examines problems of form, unity, and coherence, and how the genre responds to social change, both reflecting and shaping the thinking of the communities which originate it. Carolyne Larrington analyses the differences between the pagan wisdom of Norse, ranging through everyday practical advice, rune magic, and spells, and the Christian, socially oriented ideals of Old English wisdom poetry, strongly rooted in Christian concepts of 'natural' order and hierarchy in God's Creation. Close reading in primary texts, both runic and magical, lays bare the skilful, structural integration of pragmatic, social wisdom with other kinds of knowledge. The book explores the possibility of Christian influence on Norse texts and demonstrates the impact of Christian learning on the ancient pagan genre. The existence of a gnomic 'key' in Norse and English narrative verse is also shown. Far from being platitudinous moralizing, the wisdom poems of the two literatures reveal themselves as comic, ironic, dramatic, and grandiose by turns, exploring a gamut of themes unequal led in any other genre of the period.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198119821
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/28/2001
  • Series: Oxford English Monographs Series
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.69 (w) x 8.81 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Table of Contents

Abbreviations
Introduction 1
1 Havamal 15
1.2 Some Working Assumptions 19
1.3 An Account of the Text: The Gnomic Poem, 1-103 20
1.4 Gunnloth and the Mead of Poetry, 104-110 48
1.5 Loddfafnismal 50
1.6 Runatal 59
1.7 Ljothatal 62
2 Wisdom in the Education of the Hero: The Poems of Sigurdr's Youth 73
2.2 Prose Traditions 74
2.3 Gripisspa 75
2.4 Reginsmal 76
2.5 Fafnismal 78
2.6 Sigrdrifumal 86
3 Christian Wisdom Poetry: Hugsvinnsmal 97
3.1 Havamal, Hugsvinnsmal, and Disticha Catonis: A Problem of Relationships 97
3.2 Hugsvinnsmal: The Adaptation of Pagan Material for Christian Education 108
4 Old English Wisdom Poetry: Its Range and Themes 120
4.1 The Exeter Maxims 120
4.2 The Cotton Maxims 130
4.3 The Rune Poem 134
4.4 Fortunes of Men 139
4.5 Precepts 143
4.6 Solomon and Saturn II 148
5 Gnomic Poetry and the Natural World: Nature as an Aesthetic 161
6 Gnomes in Elegy 174
6.1 Old Norse Elegy 174
6.2 Old English Elegy 184
7 Gnomes in Narrative Verse: Old English and Old Norse 200
7.1 The Heroic: Fortitudo 201
7.2 The Heroic: Sapientia 209
7.3 The Narrative Voice 212
Conclusion 220
Bibliography 225
Index 239
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