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Literary Speech Acts of the Medieval North

Essays Inspired by the Works of Thomas A. Shippey

This volume brings together examinations of pragmatic meaning and proverbs of the Medieval North. Pragmatic meaning, which relies upon cultural and interpersonal context to go beyond the simple semantic and grammatical meaning of an utterance, has a fundamental connection with proverbs, which also communicate a deeper meaning than what is actually said. Essays in this volume explore this connection by examining the language of generosity, conversion, friendship, debate, dragon proverbs, and saints’ lives. These essays are inspired by the works of Thomas A. Shippey, who has been a pioneer in the study of wisdom poetry and pragmatics in medieval literature.

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Table of Contents

Foreword: An Awareness of Immanence
-Tom Shippey

-Eric Shane Bryan and Alexander Vaughan Ames

-Eric Shane Bryan and Alexander Vaughan Ames

Part I: Proverbial Speech Acts

The Eddic Wisdom of Hreiðarr the Fool: Paroemial Cognitive Patterning in an Old Icelandic þáttr
-Richard L. Harris

Beowulf’s Bane, Fáfnir, and the Firedrake of Erebor: Proverbial Dragons and the Implicatures of Pragmatic Discourse
-Jonathan Evans

Examining The Proverbs of Hendyng for the Essentials: Its Meaning, Authorship, and Readership
-Graham P. Johnson

The Wisdom of Friendship in Hávamál
-Michael Nagy

Competitive Cooperation in Old and Middle English Debate Poetry: Solomon and Saturn II and Winner and Waster
-Alexander Vaughan Ames

Part II: Pragmatic Speech Acts

Don’t Kill the Messenger: Felicity Conditions in Old Norse Conversion Narratives
-Eric Shane Bryan

Repetition, Class, and the Nameless Speakers of Beowulf
-Michael R. Kightley

Praising and Appraising Heroic Deeds: Generosity as Surplus Giving in Beowulf
-Scott Gwara

The Fall of the Angels as Apotropaic Weapon in Cynewulf’s Saints’ Lives
-Jill M. Fitzgerald

“Hwæt!”: Discourse Markers and Orality in Beowulf
-Toby R. Beeny

Teaching Good Manners: Civil Discourse Patterns in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
-A. Keith Kelly


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