Worlds within Worlds
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.
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