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OtherworldsFantasy and History in Medieval Literature$
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Aisling Byrne

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198746003

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198746003.001.0001

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Worlds within Worlds

(p.1) Introduction

Aisling Byrne

Oxford University Press

This Introduction argues that applying the term ‘otherworld’ in a medieval context is anachronistic. It points out the absence of any analogous lexical item in the languages of medieval Britain and Ireland. The evidence of chronicle accounts of otherworldly encounters is analysed for indications of the rationalizing methods and categories of belief which were brought to bear on depictions of supernatural realms. A key conclusion is that the otherworld should be approached as an imaginative field employed to bring about a fundamental shift in the audience’s horizon of expectations within a narrative. In this respect, the otherworld account might be considered a ‘fiction within a fiction’ with the, often highly conspicuous, boundaries between worlds functioning in the same manner as generic markers that shape the readers’ expectations of a narrative.

Keywords:   otherworld, semantics, supernatural, the other, motifs, horizon of expectations, Celtic, fairy, chronicles

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