Heroic Register, Oral Tradition, and the Alliterative Morte Arthure


By employing an oral traditional approach to the text, this essay investigates how the use of alliteration and speech-acts in the Alliterative Morte Arthure establishes a heroic register that marks the poem as participating in a tradition hearkening back to Old English heroic models. The text begins with an appeal to the audience to listen and to hear the tale, highlighting the importance of aurality and speech and signaling a way to “read” the poem that distinguishes it from Anglo-Norman literary tradition. By making such distinctions, this approach elucidates passages often deemed confusing, such as the two narrated deaths of the Roman Emperor Lucius.

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