University of Southern Indiana

Virtual faculty presentation on mysteries behind Medieval poetry

Virtual faculty presentation on mysteries behind Medieval poetry

2/19/2021 | University Communications
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The University of Southern Indiana College of Liberal Arts will host its second virtual Faculty Colloquium presentation of the Spring Semester, “A Medieval Mystery: The Old English Alliterative Verse,” by Dr. David O’Neil, Assistant Professor of English, at 3 p.m. CST Friday, February 26. The public can attend by going to USI.edu/lafc to find the webinar link.

With the exception of modern free verse, most of the world’s poetry has been composed in meter. A poetic meter may require a particular number of syllables per line, particular sequences of light and heavy syllables, particular tonal sequences or end-line patterns such as rhyme. Traditionally, these rules have determined what counts as poetry, and what doesn’t. In the early Middle Ages, all poetry, including well-known poems such as Beowulf, had to be written in a metrical form known as the Old English alliterative meter. As the name suggests, the most obvious quality of the meter was mandatory alliteration in every line.

However, there were also apparent patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables, the exact nature of which remains controversial. In this talk, O'Neil will delve into the mystery of the Old English alliterative verse, exploring some of the competing theories from the last 150 years. He also proposes an explanation for the decline and ultimate demise of the alliterative tradition, which was superseded in the late Middle Ages by a class of poetic meters that has dominated English language verse ever since.

O’Neil’s presentation is part of the Spring 2021 Liberal Arts Faculty Colloquium. Each Fall and Spring Semester, USI faculty members from the College of Liberal Arts present individual, free public lectures featuring their current research. To see the current lineup of speakers for this semester, visit USI.edu/lafc.

These virtual colloquia will be live streamed to the USI College of Liberal Arts Facebook page and recorded. For more information, contact Dr. Urska Dobersek, Assistant Professor of Psychology, at 812-461-5203 or udobersek@usi.edu.

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