Written Reliquaries: The Resonance of Orality in Medieval English Texts

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J. Benjamins, Jan 1, 2006 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 292 pages
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Written Reliquaries: The resonance of orality in medieval English texts establishes the linguistic component of orality and oral tradition. The relics it examines are traces of spoken performance, artifacts of linguistic and cultural processes. Seven case studies animate verbal acts of making promises, quoting proverbs, pronouncing curses, speaking gibberish, praying Pater Nosters, invoking saints, and keeping silence. The study of their resonance is enabled by a methodological conjunction of historical pragmatics and oral theory. Insights from oral theory enlighten spoken traditions which in turn may be understood in the larger historical-pragmatic context of linguistic performance. The inquiry ranges across broad as well as narrow planes of reference to trace a complex set of cultural and linguistic interactions. In this way it reconstructs relevant discursive contexts, giving detailed accounts of underlying assumptions, traditions, and conventions. Doing so, the book demonstrates that an integrated methodology not only allows access to oral discourse in both Old English and Middle English but also provides insight into the fluid medieval interchange of literacy and orality.

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