Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Texas at Austin in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
The focus of this dissertation is the refinement of comparative metrical analysis, i.e. the comparison of related poetic forms with the goal to reconstruct the form of their common origin. By attempting the reconstruction of early medieval poetry, we can hope to gain a sense of the form of the oral poetic tradition prior to the introduction of writing into these literary cultures. However, the application of the Comparative Method of historical linguistics must be refined before it can be applied to poetic forms. This study uses three case studies to highlight the deficiencies in the Comparative Method as applied to poetry. These case studies, the first on the hypothesized Proto-Indo-European verse form, the second a comparison of metrical anomalies in Old English and Old Saxon verse, and the third a comparison of an Old Norse verse form, known as the dróttkvætt, with certain metrical constructions in Old English and Old Saxon.