Mixing pleasure and beauty: positive aesthetic experience in Old English poetry

Francisco Javier Minaya Gómez


This article analyses 23 different lexical items in Old English denoting positive aesthetic emotion, more specifically, related to the expression of appearance, moral qualities, and personal pleasant experience with the aim of gaining a better understanding of aesthetic standards in Anglo-Saxon England. Using different lexical tools, corpora and software, I have built a database where I have annotated the attestations from the corpus taking into account different sociolinguistic criteria. An in-depth analysis of these fragments and their statistical treatment has shown that descriptions of beauty in Old English poetry have two main routes: a) one that addresses the object’s aesthetic qualities objectively and b) another that focuses on the subject’s response to it. Furthermore, these two alternatives were often complementary in texts of a religious nature.


Old English poetry; Old English beauty; aesthetics; historical linguistics; cognitive linguistics; history of emotions; aesthetic emotions

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18172/jes.4417

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