Journal Article

Glossing over the Lamb: Phonaesthetic Gl- in Middle English and Aural Scepticism in Pearl

Graham Williams

in The Review of English Studies

Volume 65, issue 271, pages 596-618
Published in print September 2014 | ISSN: 0034-6551
Published online December 2013 | e-ISSN: 1471-6968 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/res/hgt116
Glossing over the Lamb: Phonaesthetic Gl- in Middle English and Aural Scepticism in Pearl

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  • Literary Studies (Postcolonial Literature)
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This article brings together linguistic and literary approaches in order to illuminate aspects of the fourteenth-century Pearl poem that might otherwise go unnoticed by a modern reader. In particular, it investigates the sound-semantic (i.e. phonaesthetic) significance incurred by polysemous Middle English gl- words. The essay begins by using the Middle English Dictionary to locate the interrelated semantic fields for words beginning with gl- in Middle English: ‘light/vision’, ‘joy/gladness’, ‘vitreousness/viscosity’, ‘quick/smooth movement’ and ‘deceptiveness’. Then, in the second half of the essay, I describe how sound-salient collocations of gl- words occur at significant moments in Pearl and exploit a phonaesthetic network, particularly in relation to the now diminished ‘deceptiveness’ category, in ways that add to the aural stylistics of the poem and augment themes to do with the limitations of human perception in the context of spiritual consolation (i.e. ocular/aural scepticism). In turn, it is suggested that Pearl subtly registers questions to do with the limitations of alliterative poetry and the aural ‘glossing’ it entails.

Journal Article.  9992 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Postcolonial Literature) ; Literary Studies (American) ; Literary Studies (British and Irish)

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