The poetics of the medium : aesthetic forms and technologies of the word in the English Middle Ages
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] This dissertation argues that we can understand poetic form in the Middle Ages as language that interacts with its medium. The communication technologies of medieval English culture such as codex, oral tradition, epigraphy, printed book, and dramatic performance not only transmit early English poetry but supply symbolic forms that shape it as well. Approaching poetics through the medium allows original insights into several paradigmatic works of the English Middle Ages such as C[superscript ae]dmon's Hymn, the Old English Exeter Book Riddles, the Middle English Corpus Christi plays, and Malory's Morte Darthur. This study reveals the way the distinctive poetics of each of these works is formed in response to its own communication technology, appropriating from it patterns of audience relation, temporality, materiality, and social function. By means of this wide-angle approach--which incorporates media theory, oral tradition, and aesthetics--I reconceive literary history as the history of the relationship between language and technology. This thesis is developed over four chapters, each a case study examining the relationship between a poetic form and its verbal medium, moving from oral tradition, epigraphy, dramatic performance, and finally print. In each chapter I identify a key poetic feature and interpret it through the lens of the medium.
Access is limited to the campus of the University of Missouri--Columbia.