The hypermetric line in Germanic alliterative verse

2011 2011

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Abstract (summary)

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.

Indexing (details)

Medieval literature;
Germanic literature;
Icelandic & Scandinavian literature;
British and Irish literature
0290: Linguistics
0297: Medieval literature
0311: Germanic literature
0362: Icelandic & Scandinavian literature
0593: British and Irish literature
Identifier / keyword
Language, literature and linguistics; Alliterative verse; Hypermetric; Meter; Middle English; Old English; Old Norse; Old Saxon
The hypermetric line in Germanic alliterative verse
Hartman, Megan E.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 72/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Fulk, Robert D.
Committee member
Adams, Michael P.; Gade, Kari Ellen; Ingham, Patricia C.
Indiana University
University location
United States -- Indiana
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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