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    So Far and No Further: the story of Cnut and the waves

    Finlay, Alison (2018) So Far and No Further: the story of Cnut and the waves. Scandanavica 57 (1), pp. 89-113. ISSN 0036-5653.

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    Abstract

    This article traces the history of the legend of Cnut’s abortive attempt to rebuke the waves, from its first appearance in the twelfth-century Historia Anglorum of Henry of Huntingdon to modern critiques of climate change. Early versions located it in accounts of the king’s demonstrative piety, emphasising the limits of imperial power and the need for monarchs to acknowledge the superior power of God. Comparable tales in classical sources and medieval Welsh legends and saints’ lives suggest a possible oral origin for the story. From the eighteenth century the accusation of vainglory was transferred to an audience of courtiers who were rebuked by the pious king; claims were also made about the physical location of the scene. In modern journalistic parlance, Cnut is a byword for a delusional attempt to avert the inevitable, the most recent example being the coining of the term ‘Canute syndrome’ to describe climate-change denial.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Article
    School: School of Arts > English, Theatre and Creative Writing
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2019 13:51
    Last Modified: 11 Mar 2019 13:51
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/26633

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