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Draumkvedet and the Medieval English Dream Vision: A Study of Genre

Draumkvedet and the Medieval English Dream Vision: A Study of Genre

By Christian Carlsen

Master’s Thesis, University of New Orleans, 2008

Abstract: The Medieval English dream vision evidence influences from a variety of earlier vision literature, notably the apocalyptic vision and narrative dream. Philosophical visions by Plato, Cicero and Boethius, and Christian revelations of John and Paul contain traits that found their way into the dream poems by Langland, the Pearl poet and Chaucer. The Norwegian ballad Draumkvedet exhibits features that mirror these English visions. Notable characteristics pertaining to the character of the dreamer, the interplay between dreamer and dream, imagery of the vision, and structure, point to a common set of generic influences. Comparing Draumkvedet with its English counterparts demonstrates that they stem from the same tradition. Draumkvedet bares special resemblance to the Dream of the Rood, Piers Plowman and Pearl in its exploration of Christian doctrine and its appeal to the audience.

Introduction: In its home country, the vision of Olav Åsteson is considered a literary treasure, although nothing has been established for certain about its author or the historical context of its origination. Since it was first written down in the 1840s, scholars have attempted to identify Draumkvedet’s age through analyses of the poem’s language, imagery and theological content. The latter provides perhaps the most valuable clue; the Catholic authorities St. Michael and the Virgin Mary and the purgatorial scenes indicate not only a pre-Reformation origin but more specifically a time between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries when visions of the afterlife were widely popular. Moreover, the ballad’s elements from Norse mythology, such as the “Gjallar Bridge” and the name of the devil, “Grutte Greybeard” suggest that Norse mythological concepts were still a significant cultural influence at the time of its origination. In the light of this, most modern scholars date Draumkvedet around A.D 1300.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of New Orleans

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