Orality, Germanic Literacy and Runic Inscriptions in Anglo-Saxon England

  • James Daly MA Student of University College Cork, Cork City, Ireland.

Abstract

The presence of runic writing before the influx of Latinate literacy in Anglo-Saxon England is often neglected when investigating the transitional nature of orality and literacy in vernacular Anglo-Saxon writing. The presence of runes in Anglo-Saxon society and Old English manuscripts supports the theory that Old English poetry operated within a transitional period between orality and literacy (as argued by O'Keeffe (1990), Pasternack (1995), Amodio (2005)). However runic symbols problematize the definition of orality within Old English oral-formulaic studies because runic writing practices predate Latinate literacy in England. This article explores the possibility that the orality contained within Old English poetry is a form of secondary orality due to the pre-existence of runic writing in Anglo-Saxon England. This form of secondary orality occurs within the wider social cultural shift between primary orality and modern hyper-literate states as runes act as a literary representation of change within the construction of thought and literature in the English language. This article suggests that runes can be understood as a type of ‘transitional literacy’ between primary orality and Latinate derived literary practices. They act as a way of composing and recording thought as text while still maintaining elements strongly associated with the construction of a primary oral culture in how the texts are interpreted by a culture familiar with writing. Therefore clarification must be made when understanding Old English as a transitional poetic form, namely that the nature and degree of transition contained within Old English poetry builds upon runic inscriptions as it represents a transition between  a Germanic and Latinate forms of textuality and literacy.

Keywords

runic writing, Old English poetry, secondary orality, transitional literacy, textuality

  • Abstract viewed = 111 times
  • HTML viewed = 40 times
  • PDF viewed = 76 times

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

James Daly, MA Student of University College Cork, Cork City, Ireland.
Masters student of University College Cork, Ireland (thesis pending approval). My undergraduate culminated in a first class honours BA in Music-English (joint-honours) awared by University College Cork in 2015. My specialist areas of research include performance studies, orality studies, applied lingustics. My masters has focused on re-investigating the nature of orality and literacy in Old English manuscripts and in understanding the performativity of Old English textuality and its interpretation within the Anglo-Saxon/early medieval period.

References

ALEXANDER, Michael (1983). Old English Literature. New York: Schocken Books.

AMODIO, Mark (2005). Writing the Oral Tradition: Oral Poetics and Literate Culture in Medieval England. South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press.

AUSTIN, John (1962). How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

BAMMESBERGER, Alfred (2003). “The Harford Farm Brooch Runic Inscription.” Neophilologus 87: 133–5.

BARNES, Michael (2012). Runes: A Handbook. Woodbridge: Boydell Press.

BAUMAN, Richard (1984). Verbal Art as Performance. Prospect Heights: Wave-land Press.

BÄUML, Franz (1984). “Medieval Texts and the Two Theories of Oral-Formulaic Composition: A Proposal for a Third Theory.” New Literary History 16: 31-49.

CANNON, John and Ralph A. Griffiths (1988). The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

CONNER, Patrick (2008). “The Ruthwell Monument Runic Poem in a Tenth-Century Context.” Review of English Studies 59: 25-51. Print

DE VRIES, Jan (1961). Altnordisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch. Leiden: Brill.

DIAMOND, Robert (1970). Old English Grammar and Reader. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

EATON, Roger (1986). “Anglo-Saxon Secrets: Rūn and the Runes of the Lindisfarne Gospels.” Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 24: 11–27.

ELLIOT, Ralph (1971). Runes. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

FRANZEN, Christine (1991). The Tremulous Hand of Worcester: A Study of Old English in the Thirteenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

GREEN, Dennis Howard (1994). Medieval Listening and Reading: The Primary Reception of German Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

LERER, Seth (1991). Literacy and Power in Anglo-Saxon Literature. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

LOOIJENGA, Tineke (2003). Texts and Contexts of the Oldest Runic Inscriptions. Leiden: Brill.

LORD, Albert (1960). The Singer of Tales. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

MAGOUN, Francis (1953). “The Oral-Formulaic Character of Anglo-Saxon Narrative Poetry.” Speculum 28: 446-67.

MALM, Mats (2010). “Skalds, Runes, and Voice.” Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 6: 135-46.

McKITTERIC, Rosamond, ed (1990). The Uses of Literacy in Early Mediaeval Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

MORRIS, Richard (1985). “Northwest-Germanic rún - ‘rune’: A Case of Homonymy with Go. rúna ‘Mystery’.” Beiträge zur Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache und Literatur 107: 344–58.

O’KEEFFE, Katherine O’Brien (1990). Visible Song: Transitional Literacy in Old English Verse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

ONG, Walter (2002). Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Routledge.

PAGE, Raymond (1989). “Roman and Runic on St. Cuthbert’s Coffin.” St. Cuthbert, His Cult and His Community to AD 1200. Eds. Gerard Bonner, David Rollason and Clare Stancliffe. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 257-66.

PARRY, Milman (1971). The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry. Ed. Adam Parry. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

PASTERNACK, Carol Braun (1995). The Textuality of Old English Poetry. Cam-bridge: Cambridge University Press.

ROBERTSON, John (2011). “How the Germanic Futhark Came from the Roman Alphabet.” Futhark 2: 7-26.

SEARLE, John (1976). “A Classification of Illocutionary Acts.” Language in Society 5: 1-23.

SIERTSEMA, Bertha (2013). A Study of Glossematics: Critical Survey of Its Fundamental Concepts. New York: Springer.

SPURKLAND, Terje (2004). “Literacy and ‘Runacy’ in Medieval Scandinavia.” Scandinavia and Europe 800-1350: Contact, Conflict, and Coexistence. Eds. Jonathan Adams and Katherine Holman. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 333-44.

SPURKLAND, Terje (2005). Norwegian Runes and Runic Inscriptions. Suffolk: Boydell.

SPURKLAND, Terje (2010). “The Older Fuþark and Roman Script Literacy.” Futhark 1: 65-84.

STOCK, Brian (1983). The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND (1845). The Archaeological Journal Vol. 3: Of Researches into the Arts and Monuments of the Early and Middle Ages. London: Longman.

WILLIAMS, Henrik (1996). “The Origin of the Runes.” Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 45: 211–18.

ZIMMERMAN, Christine (2010). “‘How to Do Things with Runes’: Illocutionary Forces and Communicative Purposes behind the Runic Inscriptions in the Older Fuþark.” Futhark 1: 85-108.
Published
2017-12-27
How to Cite
DALY, James. Orality, Germanic Literacy and Runic Inscriptions in Anglo-Saxon England. MATLIT: Materialities of Literature, [S.l.], v. 5, n. 1, p. 39-52, dec. 2017. ISSN 2182-8830. Available at: <http://impactum-journals.uc.pt/matlit/article/view/3781>. Date accessed: 15 aug. 2018. doi: https://doi.org/10.14195/2182-8830.
Section
Secção Temática | Thematic Section

Keywords

Orality - literacy - textuality - runes - runacy- performativity - Transitional period - Germanic textuality