Chapter published in:The Dynamics of Text and Framing Phenomena: Historical approaches to paratext and metadiscourse in English
Edited by Matti Peikola and Birte Bös
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 317] 2020
► pp. 115–134
Chapter 5Framing material in early literacy
Presenting literacy and its agents in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts
The remarkably extensive and diverse Anglo-Saxon text corpus clearly testifies to the literary precocity and self-awareness of both writers and book producers in Anglo-Saxon England, the first period of literacy in English. This becomes particularly evident in prologues and scribal colophons, the two kinds of framing material discussed in the present chapter. Clearly modelled on classical or early Christian genre conventions, the famous Alfredian and Ælfrician prologues frame the reading of the following vernacular texts by investing them with the authority implicit in Latin literacy. At the end of texts or manuscripts, scribal colophons exploit the value of manuscripts as material objects, by presenting the – in a manuscript culture typically individual – agents of literacy, namely the book and its producer(s). Similar in their formal characteristics to maker formulae in epigraphy, colophons further serve independent functions in keeping the names of the scribes in remembrance through the centuries. Both kinds of framing material thus attest to the authorial and medial (self-)awareness of the agents of Anglo-Saxon literacy, who understood the great potential of the written medium to carry authority and to secure longevity.
Keywords: Anglo-Saxon, manuscript, literacy, colophon, scribe, Alfredian texts, Ælfric, Genette, maker formula
- 1.Anglo-Saxon literacy: The surviving evidence
- 2. Paratexts from Anglo-Saxon England: Paucity of evidence
- 3.Investing vernacular literacy with authority in Alfredian and Ælfrician prefaces
- 3.1The conceptualization of prefaces as a threshold
- 3.2The Alfredian prefaces
- 3.3Framing in Ælfric’s prefaces
- 4.Terminal framing material in manuscripts: The communicative functions of Anglo-Saxon scribal colophons
- 4.1Anglo-Saxon scribal colophons: Presenting the agents of literacy
- 4.2 Prosopopoeia: Not only scribes, but books speak
- 4.3 Colophons as micro-texts
Published online: 18 November 2020
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