Document Type


Date of Award



Runes, Criticism and interpretation, Crosses, Manuscripts, English (Old)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English, General Literature, and Rhetoric

First Advisor

Bernard F. Huppé

Second Advisor

Mario A. Di Cesare

Third Advisor

Frederick Jones




The point of view of the present study presupposes that OE runes—in their genesis a product of pagan Germanic times, replete with established phonetic and lexical levels of meaning—ought to be considered from the further perspective of their literal configuration as found in MSS, as well as in artifacts. Specifically, like the common cross-marks or other notae often found in medieval MSS, runes also may function as visual pointers to significant passages in a poetical text, most evident, for example, in the Cynewulfian signatures. Further, individual "cruciform" runes, viewed graphically in relation to their literary context, may serve either to reinforce existing interpretations or to point old views in new directions. That is, the form of a rune, especially a "cruciform" rune, may serve to give special symbolic force to the passage or poem which contains it, and runes may also serve to evoke generally the ethos of an older, heroic age. In hypothesizing the cruciform potential of certain OE runes in particular contexts, then, it is not to be inferred that the traditional lexical and/or phonetic functions of the runes are to be dismissed, but rather that these common functions are only part of the symbolic dimensions of the runic ideographs.


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