English Language and Literature ETDs

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In 1705, the last fascicle of the Linguarum Veterum Septentrionalium Thesaurus Grammatico-Criticus et Archaeologicus of George Hickes was published in Oxford. This monumental volume represented a major step forward in Anglo-Saxon studies. This study translates the most monumental chapter of the Thesaurus, Chapter 23. Although this chapter \u2015On the Poetic Art of the Anglo-Saxons,\u2016 represents the first sustained attempt to apply a critical and theoretical apparatus to Anglo-Saxon poetry, it is also concerned with attempts to sort out a \u2015purer\u2016 language from the various dialects represented in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. Hickes directly addresses two major Anglo-Saxon forms in Chapter 23, \u2015pure Saxon,\u2016 and \u2015Dano-Saxonic,\u2016 the lesser of the two languages, because of its \u2015foreignness,\u2016 a key term for Hickes, who sought to separate out what he believed to be the true Anglo-Saxon from dialectal languages which he believed to have introduced \u2015abhorrent\u2016 elements into Anglo-Saxon poetry. Ultimately, this desire of Hickes to divine the \u2015purer\u2016 language with respect to the Anglo-Saxon reflects a more general eighteenth century anxiety about the nationalistic uses of language and the attempt to control and modify the language, beginning with Sir William Temples essay On Ancient and Modern Learning, as well as the response to it by William Wotton in his Reflections Upon Ancient and Modern Learning, culminating in Jonathan Swift's \u2015A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue,\u2016 and Elizabeth Elstob's An Apology for the Study of Northern Antiquities. Especially important was the linking of language to national identity and issues of nation building, as with the establishment of the Académie Française in 1635. This anxiety manifests itself in Swift as an attempt to purge the English language of \u2015barbaric\u2016 elements, namely Germanic words and grammatical forms, placing him and his supporters in direct opposition to the antiquarian movement headed by George Hickes and the Oxford Saxonists.'

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Level of Degree


Department Name


First Advisor

Graham, Timothy C.

First Committee Member (Chair)

Berkhout, Carl T.

Second Committee Member

Damico, Helen

Third Committee Member

Obermeier, Anita




Hickes, George, 1642-1715--Criticism and interpretation, English poetry--Old English, ca. 450-1100--History and criticism, English poetry--Old English, ca. 450-1100--Aesthetics

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