p. s. langeslag :: publications



Seasons in the Literatures of the Medieval North. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2015. [purchase]

To the cultures of medieval northwestern Europe, the annual oscillation between the seasons was a material and economic reality that strongly informed the labour, travel, and ritual calendars. Despite extensive research into the interplay between society and its physical surroundings as reflected in medieval literature, the seasonal aspect of this dynamic has not hitherto received much attention. This book addresses that need by analyzing the narrative and psychological functions of seasonal settings in the literatures of medieval England and Iceland from the eighth to the fourteenth century. Adducing both the material realities and the figurative functions of the seasonal cycle, it interprets seasonal spaces in myth and literature as conventionalized environments in which society takes on outside threats and powers whose unfamiliarity has led it to map them onto marginal landscapes.

Through its reliance on a large corpus of Old Norse, Old English, Middle English, and Latin texts, this study is able to identify literary conventions and uncover beliefs concerning the seasons and their connections with the supernatural. Informing its literary investigations with relevant concerns from economic history, patristic doctrine, and decision theory, it offers a comprehensive new look at the psychology of landscape and season in medieval literature.

Articles and Conference Proceedings

“Reverse-Engineering the Old English Book of Judges.” Neophilologus 100.2 (April 2016): 303–14. [download]

The strongly bipartite character of the Old English Judges requires an explanation given its presumed unity of authorship. This article identifies the aims visible in the work’s different parts, evaluates the plausibility of the general view that the entire text was composed by Ælfric of Eynsham, and proposes a configuration of aims and audience that reconciles these facts.

“Kinsmen Before Christ, Part II: The Anglo-Saxon Transmission.” Leeds Studies in English n.s. 46 (2017 for 2015): 1–18.

This article applies the stemmatic approach outlined in “Kinsmen Before Christ, Part I” to the “no aid to kin” motif as found in Old English homiletics, where it is especially prevalent. It combines the findings from the Old English corpus with previous results to attain a transmission history from Pseudo-Ephraem through all known Old English attestations, and comes to some observations on stemmatic methodology and the nature of motif transmission along the way.

“The Vercelli Fragment of Karel ende Elegast and Dat boec van den houte.” Bollettino Storico Vercellese 85 (2015): 5–37.

Known witnesses to the Middle Dutch rood legend Van den drie gaerden, better known as Dat boec van den houte, generally divide into two branches. The newly discovered Vercelli fragment assumes an intermediary position between these two that provides some insight into its transmission history. The article prints a diplomatic transcription of the complete fragment, which also includes the closing lines of Karel ende Elegast, alongside a full facsimile of the bifolium.

“ ‘God Wat Þæt Ic Eom God’: An Exploratory Investigation Into Word Sense Disambiguation in Old English.” (Co-author, with Martin Wunderlich and Alexander Fraser.) GSCL 2015: International Conference of the German Society for Computational Linguistics and Language Technology. Proceedings of the Conference. Gesellschaft für Sprachtechnologie and Computerlinguistik e.V., 2015. 39–48. [download]

A proof of method using Naïve Bayesian and Maximum Entropy algorithms to disambiguate between lexical senses in the untagged Dictionary of Old English Corpus.

“Monstrous Landscape in Beowulf.” English Studies 96.2 (2015): 119–38. [download]

This paper analyses the tension between theological and folktale influences on the environmental associations of the monsters in the first part of Beowulf. It reasons that the wet landscapes inhibited by Grendel and his mother serve to explain how Cain’s progeny was able to survive the flood, but points out that there are also socioeconomic and psychological considerations that favour the creatures’ connection with wetlands.

“Kinsmen Before Christ, Part I: The Latin Transmission.” Leeds Studies in English n.s. 45 (2014): 34–48. [download]

This article serves as a proof of method for a stemmatic approach to the transmission of short arguments and motifs. It reasons that the traditional text-based approach, which takes a complete work as its basic unit, does not permit a consideration of the complete network of attestations of a motif, let alone a thorough account of horizontal influence between nodes in the chain of transmission. The article demonstrates this method by tracing the dissemination of the “no aid to kin” motif from its Latin attestations to its Germanic translators.

“The Dream Women of Gísla saga.” Scandinavian Studies 81.1 (spring 2009): 47–72.

The dream-women in Gísla saga are subject to a dual representation: they are described once in the saga's prose, and once in the poetry embedded in it. Although these accounts differ considerably from one another, the compiler's interpretation of the poetic account has too often been taken at face value. When the dream-poetry of Gísla saga is studied in isolation from the prose, the juxtaposition of the two types of dream corresponds so closely to medieval Christian vision-literature that it may fruitfully be studied as a member of this tradition. Crucial formal elements of the dream-vision, however, are demonstrably vernacular northwestern-European material. Thus a blend of Christian and vernacular elements serves two motifs of warning: the death-warning follows a vernacular tradition, while the didactic message of what follows is given a Christian format.

Trǫll and Ethnicity in Egils saga.” Á austrvega: Saga and East Scandinavia. Preprint Papers of the 14th International Saga Conference, Uppsala, 9th–15th August 2009. Eds. Agneta Ney, Henrik Williams, and Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist. Institutionen för humaniora och samhällsvetenskaps skriftserie 14. Gävle: Gävle UP, 2009. 2.560–7. [download]

One of the more conspicuous literary devices structurally employed throughout Egils saga resides in the depiction of the central family. Those of its members who receive focal attention are typically characterised as either dark, ugly, and unruly, or handsome, cheerful, and popular. However, a unifying characterisation of the family may also be discerned, in which all of its members are tall, strong, and proud, an identity that wins the family a mixture of success and trouble. While these two aspects of the family, its division and its unity, have received some deal of individual attention, their interplay merits a study of its own: it is where the two meet that the compiler’s purpose may be most clearly discerned. This paper examines the author’s aims in the juxtaposition, proposing that it represents an attempt to explain differences within the family with reference to a mixed ethnicity, signalled by the association of the darker half with tröll. This divided ancestry enabled the compiler to draw on a heroic past while salvaging a proto-Christian heritage for the Mýramenn of his own age.

“Boethian Similitude in Deor and The Wanderer.” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 109.2 (2008). 205–22. [download]

None of the many claims that either Deor or The Wanderer has received formative influence from Boethius's De consolatione Philosophiae is without problems. In an analysis of concepts like fate and Providence as used in The Wanderer and the Latin and Old English redactions of the Consolatio, it becomes clear that Boethianism and medieval Western Christianity share a number of axioms that predict their agreement in such matters. However, the two also have differences by which their respective adherents may be told apart. When such differences are sought out in The Wanderer and Deor, it is found that both these poems convey messages essentially incompatible with the Boethian world–view. While the possibility of fragmentary borrowing cannot be excluded, neither poet reflects in his work the message at the heart of the Boethian Consolatio.

“Doctrine and Paradigm: Two Functions of the Innovations in Genesis B.” Studia Neophilologica 79.2 (December 2007). 113–18. [preprint]

The file linked to above is a preprint of an article whose final and definite form has been published in the journal Studia Neophilologica © 2007 Taylor & Francis; Studia Neophilologica is available online at: http://journalsonline.tandf.co.uk/. The article may be purchased here.

The apparent mitigation of Eve's guilt in the Old English Genesis B has divided scholars into two camps. While some have proposed that the poet indeed wished to reduce her guilt, others have pointed out flaws in Eve's assessment of the situation, suggesting that Eve is in fact blamed for the Fall. This article argues that the poet emphasises both Eve's good intentions and the grave consequences of her actions, which double emphasis serves at least two objectives. A theoretical reason for this position is the Christianisation of Adam and Eve, who through the Harrowing of Hell have earned a place in the medieval theology of penance. This required that they should assume the attitude prerequisite to the forgiveness of sin, which involved some degree of Christian interpolation in the Hebrew narrative. A practical reason for the double emphasis is to use the first couple as a warning against sin and a paradigm for penitence, for the benefit of the medieval audience.

Notes and Communications

Septentrionalia: Bridging the Digital Transition for Medieval Studies.” RMN Newsletter 2 (May 2011): 52–4. [download]

Discusses the state of the transition to a more fully computer-assisted field of humanities and the role therein of the digitisation of scholarship in general and the vision of the Septentrionalia project in particular.


“Rebecca Stephenson. The Politics of Language: Byrhtferth, Ælfric, and the Multilingual Identity of the Benedictine Reform.” Anglia 135.2 (May 2017): 365–9.

“Kristján Ahronson. Into the Ocean: Vikings, Irish, and Environmental Change in Iceland and the North.” Saga-Book 40 (2016): 106–9.

“Johanna Kramer. Between Earth and Heaven: Liminality and the Ascension of Christ in Anglo-Saxon Literature.” Anglia 134.1 (2016): 151–4.

“M. R. Rambaran-Olm. John the Baptist’s Prayer or The Descent into Hell from the Exeter Book: Text, Translation and Critical Study.” Anglia 133.3 (2015): 547–50.


Pius Engelbert, O.S.B. “Editing William of Hirsau’s Constitutiones Hirsaugienses.” Consuetudines et regulae: Sources for Monastic Life in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. Ed. C. M. Malone and C. Maines. Turnhout: Brepols, 2014. 105–14.