Session Title

Word-Play: The Roles of Proverbs in Medieval Vernacular Texts

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Dept. of English, Princeton Univ.

Organizer Name

Sarah M. Anderson

Organizer Affiliation

Princeton Univ.

Presider Name

Sarah M. Anderson

Paper Title 1

"Ryght Nought": Playing with Nothing in Proverbial Poetry

Presenter 1 Name

Lisa H. Cooper

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison

Paper Title 2

Proverbs for the People: Audience Expectations and the Allure of Proverbs in the Histoire de Guillaume le maréchal

Presenter 2 Name

Walter Scott

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison

Paper Title 3

þæt ungerydelice 7 þæt hlude geflit þæs folces: Sententious Sparring in Ecclesiastes and Solomon and Saturn II

Presenter 3 Name

Karl A. E. Persson

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Univ. of British Columbia

Paper Title 4

Respondent

Presenter 4 Name

Susan E. Deskis

Presenter 4 Affiliation

Northern Illinois Univ.

Start Date

11-5-2014 10:30 AM

Session Location

Schneider 1345

Description

For all of the profusion of the polysemous proverb in medieval texts, there are some rather spacious gaps in the study of them. A survey of proverb research in medieval vernacular traditions shows that, though new ground has been broken, we nevertheless have not penetrated some of the oft-framed questions concerning the proverb. For instance, it is still easier to gesture toward an abstracted collective, the “medieval proverb tradition”, than it is to analyze that collective for specific types of proverbs or datable examples of them or to decide upon what features of the proverb other than grammatical markers point to its proverbialness. Although proverbs, generally, are understood as somehow foundational and crucial to human expression, there is still very little agreement about the formal criteria that define a passage as proverbial. The very slipperiness of the proverb’s definition, which even eminent paremiologists like Blanche Colton Williams and Archer Taylor have assented to, itself needs to be probed. What are the features of the proverb that make defining its genre so difficult? Is it the problem of that treacherous word “traditional”? Or that of reading the proverbial in dead languages in which native competency can no longer be directly queried? What makes a proverb genuine? What does the rarity or – alternatively – the prolixity of a proverb say about it or its context? Ought not the juncture between oral and written be considered yet again in view of the proverb’s functions and performance? It is such questions that we hope to frame and discuss in this session of papers.

Sarah M. Anderson

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May 11th, 10:30 AM

Word-Play: The Roles of Proverbs in Medieval Vernacular Texts

Schneider 1345

For all of the profusion of the polysemous proverb in medieval texts, there are some rather spacious gaps in the study of them. A survey of proverb research in medieval vernacular traditions shows that, though new ground has been broken, we nevertheless have not penetrated some of the oft-framed questions concerning the proverb. For instance, it is still easier to gesture toward an abstracted collective, the “medieval proverb tradition”, than it is to analyze that collective for specific types of proverbs or datable examples of them or to decide upon what features of the proverb other than grammatical markers point to its proverbialness. Although proverbs, generally, are understood as somehow foundational and crucial to human expression, there is still very little agreement about the formal criteria that define a passage as proverbial. The very slipperiness of the proverb’s definition, which even eminent paremiologists like Blanche Colton Williams and Archer Taylor have assented to, itself needs to be probed. What are the features of the proverb that make defining its genre so difficult? Is it the problem of that treacherous word “traditional”? Or that of reading the proverbial in dead languages in which native competency can no longer be directly queried? What makes a proverb genuine? What does the rarity or – alternatively – the prolixity of a proverb say about it or its context? Ought not the juncture between oral and written be considered yet again in view of the proverb’s functions and performance? It is such questions that we hope to frame and discuss in this session of papers.

Sarah M. Anderson