The hypermetric line in Germanic alliterative verse
My dissertation undertakes a complete study of the stress patterns, syntactic construction, and rhetorical style of hypermetric verse in Germanic alliterative poetry. This project allows me to fill a gap in the study of Germanic meter while simultaneously investigating the connection between metrical and literary scholarship. Hypermetric meter provides a particularly effective tool to examine this connection because hypermetric lines contrast starkly to normal lines, suggesting that poets switched meters for rhetorical reasons. In addition, the unusually variable nature of these lines illustrate one way in which poets can alter their metrical style to suit different situations or tones. By bringing attention to the various styles of hypermetric composition, my project establishes the meter's solid place in the literary history of this period even as I explore how the poets construct the lines.
To provide a thorough analysis of the meter, I employ a corpus that spans Old English, Old Saxon, Old Norse, and Middle English traditions, thus illustrating various literary and linguistic contexts. I also move my research beyond the typical focus on stress patterns and investigate syntactic patterns as well, focusing particularly on verb placement, syntactic breaks, and the adherence to Kuhn's laws. My findings demonstrate that the sentence structure closely resembles prose syntax in terms of word order and frequency of clause breaks, but that poets still adhere to Kuhn's laws, showing a clear poetic structure. To focus my syntactic analysis, I adopt a diachronic perspective that demonstrates how poets adapt stress patterns to accommodate the syntax of different linguistic environments, creating metrical shifts that engender new poetic styles. This syntactic analysis reveals that while certain features may have been adopted out of necessity, others must have been consciously chosen by the poet. I ultimately conclude that the hypermetric line is a standardized metrical variant that poets adapt to shifting linguistic environments with ingenious new approaches, showcasing the various ways in which metrical patterns can be made to illustrate the theme, highlight the tone, characterize major figures, or otherwise serve important rhetorical purposes in each poem.
Icelandic & Scandinavian literature;
British and Irish literature
0297: Medieval literature
0311: Germanic literature
0362: Icelandic & Scandinavian literature
0593: British and Irish literature