Date of Award
Master of Arts
Laura Howes, Mary Dzon
Among the major Anglo-Saxon medical texts, the Lacnunga is unique. All of these documents display influences as diverse as traditional Christian authorities and the Mediterranean medical experts. However, while its contemporaries often contain tables of contents and display signs of careful editing, the Lacnunga lacks any recognizable structure. This disorganization has lead Cameron to compare the work to a "commonplace" book, one where its scribes could record whatever scraps of medical information passed through their hands. The "potpourri" nature of the text could suggest that it more closely resembles the practice of actual contemporary healers than its better-organized relatives.Also unique is the Lacnunga's concentration of spoken language. Approximately twenty-five percent of its remedies require performative speech acts. Its closest competitor, the third volume of Bald's Leechbook, includes only ten percent. These remedies are prescribed in a variety of languages, including Latin (the prestige language), Old English (the common language), and a kind of nonsense speech that at times resembles both Latin and Irish. And though the Lacnunga does not often describe the necessary speaker of its remedies, these people range from men of the cloth to married women. This variety in its potential usership, like its disorganization, could also suggest that the Lacnunga is better reflective of actual Anglo-Saxon medical practice than its contemporaries.Taken together, the disorganization and heavy inclusion of performative speech in the Lacnunga may better reflect the day-to-day healing practices of its particular place and time. And as such, it may illustrate a uniquely Anglo-Saxon cultural preference for "saying something" during the healing process.
Lundt, Honor, "The Healing Word: Performative Speech in Anglo-Saxon Medical Texts. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2019.