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Words for wood: the lexis of trees in Old English poetry

By Mary Elizabeth Ward


This thesis examines the words concerned with trees and wood in the Old English poetic corpus. The importance of wood to the daily lives of the Anglo-Saxons and the familiarity with wood which resulted from this is shown to have extended into the vocabulary and used within the poems to develop ideas and concepts beyond the physical reality of the growing organism or the resource obtained from it. By the creative use of these words in rhetorical tropes and formulas the texts exploit the demands of the form to develop wide-ranging and multi-layered shades of meaning. Trees are shown to define the bounds of community and to delineate the roles of both people and artefacts within it. They combine the pragmatic and the transcendental by being both a source of fuel and a symbol of sacred significance. The thesis contains two case studies. The first, on ‘æsc’, demonstrates the way in which one tree came to stand for only one artefact, the spear, and then to develop nuances of meaning connected with its use. The second, on ‘wudu’, shows the multiplicity of ways in which such a general term is used and the variety of artefacts it can refer to

Topics: PE English
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

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