Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Deskis, Susan E.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English


Literature; Medieval; Linguistics; British literature; Irish literature


The Old English elegies include a group of poems found in the Exeter Book manuscript that have traditionally been treated as a single genre due to their general sense of lament -- The Wanderer, The Seafarer, The Riming Poem, Deor, Wulf and Eadwacer, The Wife's Lament, Resignation, Riddle 60, The Husband's Message, and The Ruin. In this study, I conduct a linguistic stylistic analysis of all ten poems using systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and a variety of computational and linguistic tools: Lexomics, Voyant, and Microsoft Excel. My results focus on three characteristics of the poetry: (1) the similarity of the linguistic style within the poems, measured by Lexomics; (2) an oscillation between first- and third-person clausal Themes, measured using SFL analysis; and (3) themes in the lexical categorization, measured through detailed lexical analysis. In the end, my methodology creates a new and more nuanced definition of the elegy: a relatively short reflective or dramatic poem, similar in style and content to other elegiac poems, that alternates between first- and third-person perspectives and includes (1) themes of exile; (2) imagery of water or the sea, the earth, and/or the weather; and (3) words expressing both joy and sorrow. Ultimately, I argue for a recategorization of only five poems as "Old English elegies": The Wanderer, The Seafarer, Wulf and Eadwacer, The Wife's Lament, and The Riming Poem..


Advisors: Susan E. Deskis.||Committee members: Nicole Clifton; Doris M. Macdonald.||Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


xiii, 168 pages




Northern Illinois University

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