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Litanic Verse


December 9, Wolfson Room 1, 16.30-18.00

Event poster: (PDF Document)

The introductory presentation will discuss the activities of the research team Litanic Verse in the Culture of European Regions, the goals of the group, and the literary periods examined by it. Litany will be defined along with the process of its spreading in Europe, i.e. in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Polish, and Scandinavian poetry. General statistics will be given in order to reveal the amount of litanic verse written in specific countries and the increase and fall of interest in respective epochs. Its origin and popularity will be examined.

The first part of the workshop will involve a short introduction into the rise and development of litanic verse in Old English and Middle English. Poems of the type called The Five Joys of Mary, modeled on the French Joies de Notre Dame, will be discussed along with the relationship to The Great Akathistos. Akathistos was a hymn that did not represent traditional litany of the saints, but enumerated events associated with the role of Mary in Christ’s life and hailed Mary by dint of the holy names attributed to her. The joys, in the English Marian devotion lyrics being the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Assumption, were seven or even fifteen on the continent.

The second part of the workshop will deal with a section of the English Litany called the Obsecrations. It is made up of prayers for divine mercy, in which Christ’s redemptive work is underlined, starting with his Incarnation and Nativity, moving through the agony of the Passion to end with his Resurrection and Ascension. The events from Christ’s life are introduced by the anaphora on “by”, which indicates that we pray by what is most precious to us. The repeated “by” also brings to mind associations with conjuring; and thus the Obsecrations can be called the most magical part of the Litany. The purpose of the discussion will be to look at how the prayers of obsecrations have been appropriated in poetry. We will discuss the various uses to which they have been put by late medieval and early modern poets and the range of associations they evoke.

Dinner to follow - please email Emma Mason if you would like to join us for dinner.

This project is financially supported by the National Science Centre of Poland

The project’s leader:

Witold Sadowski

The persons responsible for English literature:

Anna Czarnowus

Dominika Ruszkiewicz

Katarzyna Dudek


[poems by Alphanus of Salerno; Alexander Montgomerie; John Donne; Richard Crashaw]