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Transitions from Direct Speech to Narration in Old English Poetry

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This paper considers how Old English narrative poems reintroduce narration after direct speech. It is based on a survey of eight poems: Andreas, Beowulf, Christ and Satan, Elene, Genesis A and B, Guthlac A and Juliana. Results show that those transitions (like the initial inquits) contribute to the sharp delimitation of direct speech in Old English poetry. However, the paper also demonstrates that sharp delimitation is not synonymous with freedom from narratorial interference as the framing of speeches is often used to orient interpretation. Further, it suggests that the strong delineation of direct speech should not be seen as an independent phenomenon, but as representative of the way narrative poetry treats coherent sequences of text more generally. Indeed, similarities in the treatment of transitions between passages of narration and from direct speech to narration suggest that Anglo-Saxon poets perceived direct speech as perhaps worthier of attention, but not as radically different from narration.

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Correspondence to Elise Louviot.

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Louviot, E. Transitions from Direct Speech to Narration in Old English Poetry. Neophilologus 97, 383–393 (2013).

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  • Old English poetry
  • Direct speech
  • Narrative structure
  • ða