Joseph Harris, born in Columbus, Georgia, USA, in 1940. Ph.D. from Harvard University, Cambridge. Francis Lee Higginson Professor of English Literature and Professor of Folklore at Harvard University, Cambridge.
Fellow (1 September 2005 – 30 June 2006)
EARLY GERMANIC ELEGY: AN ESSAY IN PARA-LITERARY HISTORY
The present working title of my overarching NIAS project is ‘Æfter: elegiac poetry of the Germanic early middle ages.’ The project attempts to make literary historical connections among the manifestations of ‘elegy’ in Old Norse literature (heroic elegies and related materials in the Poetic Edda and Eddica minora; the funeral poetry of erfikvæ>i; elegiac elements in skaldic poetry; runic memorials such as the Rök Stone), Old English literature (the OE elegies of the Exeter Book and elsewhere, especially in Beowulf), a few continental traces (Hildebrandslied) and early Latin references to ritual lamentation. But at least equally important are the literary and comparative connections to ‘elegy’ in folk and high culture from all ages. Progress during my NIAS year has mainly been on prolegomena to the book. I completed two articles (together c. 170 pages) on the famous Rök inscription and placed them in peer-reviewed publication venues; I believe these articles will constitute a new standard interpretation. I generated a new but unfinished article on a digression in Beowulf in the context of elegy and heroic poetry; I believe the new view of this part of Beowulf will be provocative. A considerable amount of work on other prolegomena (most of them literally Vorstudien to the elegy project) was accomplished, even if only part of it leads directly to publication (last stages of three ‘forthcoming’ articles; fresh attempts on two older projects). Finally, I gave six invited lectures (Austria; Cambridge, England; Gothenburg; Copenhagen; Zurich; Basel), lectured to a class (Leiden), and taught two seminars (Leiden; Basel).