Karel Fraaije (UCL) - 2016-17 Students

Poetic performance as a Restorative Strategy: Wisdom and Rationality in the West Germanic Metrical Charms

Recent years have seen exciting developments in the history of medicine and digital editing. My project will offer early medieval perspectives on both by examining the emergence, development and rationality of the West Germanic metrical charms – that is, the charms recorded in Old High German (OHG), Old Saxon (OS) and Old English (OE) (approximately 30 texts). There are many more types of charms in both Old High German and Old English, but the metrical charms are the most culturally distinctive, emerging from an intersection of local religious practice and international monastic intellectualism, and so are of particular value to understanding the literary traditions of early medieval Europe.

Significant research questions I will address are:

1. What are the principal motifs that appear in OE, OS and OHG charms? What can thematic or stylistic correlations tell us about the function and origin of the genre?

2. How do charms interact with the areas of (popular) religion, (sympathetic) magic and early medieval medicine? How do the metrical charms relate to texts such as prayers, oaths and curses, and what can similarities between these genres tell us about the thought-patterns underlying charms?

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