Writing in a Speaking World: The Pragmatics of Literacy in Anglo-Saxon Inscriptions and Old English Poetry

Writing in a Speaking World: The Pragmatics of Literacy in Anglo-Saxon Inscriptions and Old English Poetry

By Peter Orton
2014 | 266 + xiv pp. | 978-0-86698-493-5 | Hardcover 6 x 9 in
MRTS 445 | $68 |

Writing in a Speaking World is a critical investigation of some manifestations of literate ways of thinking and expression in Anglo-Saxon writings. Two of its main themes are the relationship between runic and roman writing in both epigraphical inscriptions and manuscript poetry, and certain distinctive deictic usages, in particular the use of the first-person pronoun, 'I' or 'me', in reference to non-human subjects (inscribed media or artifacts, particular copies of texts, or the texts themselves). The Old English Riddles, comparable with inscriptions in their use of the first-person pronoun for non-human 'speakers', also sometimes combine runic and roman writing, and shed interesting light on contemporary ideas about literacy and orality. Finally, the Old English 'lyrics' of the Exeter Book illustrate certain difficulties involved in 'reclaiming' the first-person pronoun for human reference, and foreshadow later developments in human subjectivity in writing.