Book Series Medieval Texts and Cultures of Northern Europe, vol. 19

Laments for the Lost in Medieval Literature

Jane Tolmie, M. Jane Toswell (eds)

  • Pages: xii + 306 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2010

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-52858-8
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-53903-4
  • E-book
  • Available

This collection addresses the cultural construction of lament and mourning in the Middle Ages of northern Europe, with a particular focus on grief at the loss of children.


“Books like Laments for the Lost and Philology and Its Histories speak of the struggles of the human mind to make sense of the past and give expression to its wonders. The former speaks of them implicitly. The latter shouts them from the rooftops. They not only create superb scholarship but also revise the rules of engagement, consider the necessary limitations and the conditional freedoms inherent in our practice and assert their position in the random, pluralistic, fragmented but equally inflexible academic world. They will both tower over the humanities for many years, support new scholars, fight to be heard, and define and map out the aims we share. Their editorship has ensured it.” (Dr. Eugenia Russell, in Primary and Secondary Approaches to the Literary Past: A Book Review Essay, 1287, 2016)


This is a collection of essays on the subject of lament in the medieval period, with a particular emphasis on parental grief. The analysis of texts about pain and grief is an increasingly important area in medieval studies, offering as it does a means of exploring the ways in which cultural meanings arise from loss and processes of mourning. The international scholars who come together to produce this volume discuss subjects as diverse as lament psalms in Old and Middle English, medieval Latin laments, mourning in Anglo-Saxon literature, mourning through objects, medieval art and archaeology, Old French poetic elegy, skaldic poetry, medieval women’s writing, Old Polish drama, English massacre plays, and Middle English nativity lyrics.


Singing a Song of Sorrow: Tropes of Lament ANNE L. KLINCK

Structures of Sorrow: The Lament Psalms in Medieval England M. J. TOSWELL

Dustsceawung: Texting the Dead in the Old English Elegies MARY K. RAMSEY

The Grave, the Sword, and the Lament: Mourning for the Future in Beowulf ANNE SAVAGE

Laments for Lost Children: Latin Traditions JAN M. ZIOLKOWSKI

The Language of Philomena’s Lament SUSAN SMALL

Mary, Motherhood, and Theatricality in the Old Polish Listen, Dear Brothers and Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale ANNA CZARNOWUS

‘Myth to Live By’ in Sonatorrek JOSEPH HARRIS

‘Non enim possum plorare nec lamenta fundere’: Sonatorrek in a Tenth-Century Context til minningar um Stefán Karlsson RUSSELL POOLE

Lullaby as Lament: Learning to Mourn in Middle English Nativity Lyrics AMY N. VINES

Natural Feeling and Unnatural Mothers: Herod the Great, The Life of Saint Bridget, and Chaucer’s Clerk’s Tale REBECCA KRUG

‘Son, dey þou nat without þy modyre’: The Landscape of Suffering in The Lamentacioun of Oure Lady ELIZABETH TOWL

Christine de Pizan’s Life in Lament: Love, Death, and Politics NADIA MARGOLIS

Spinning Women and Manly Soldiers: Grief and Game in the English Massacre Plays JANE TOLMIE

Postscript/Postlude/Afterword  DEREK PEARSALL