Medieval authors of literature on Doomsday faced a structural challenge of their own making: their audiences knew too much about the coming end of days to be as terror-stricken as they should. This difficulty was compounded by the comic structure of the Christian salvation narrative, which looked forward to Christ's return as—technically speaking—its catastrophe, when all the confusion and unhappiness of the universal plot would be unravelled and total clarity would reign. The author of the Old English Doomsday poem called Christ III, however, devised an ingenious strategy to restore its audience to a state of wholesome uncertainty. By destabilizing the predictable flow of Old English meter with an unusually varied and challenging range of hypermetric verses, the poet of Christ III used metrical form to undermine the confidence of audiences in their powers of prediction—and in so doing, restored suspense to the experience of Doomsday.
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Research Article| January 01 2022
Emily V. Thornbury; Form versus Catastrophe in the Old English Christ III. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 January 2022; 52 (1): 17–40. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-9478454
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