The contents of this page will be posted soon; in the meantime here
are some interesting quotations. Before those, however, you might
like to consider, regardless of the contents of writing, some questions.
- The respective authority of writing and memory -- how far is this
culturally constructed and changing over time? Is the case of
Æthelric, bishop of Selsey, being carted to Penenden Heath
- What is a 'textual community' and what is its importance for the
relationship between writing and reading?
- How would you summarise the theories of: Eisenstein; Goody; Stock;
- How far does writing at different times represent the author? Think here
perhaps of the Old English Leges, issued by an oral royal authority,
but transcribed into writing by the religious, not the royal agencies.
- In what circumstances might documents be rhetorical?
- How far is writing distrusted at some time?
- How is a 'literate society' constituted? -- by the proportion of people
able to read/write or by the familarity with the use of
- Does writing mark off freedom and unfreedom in the middle ages, in terms
of who is allowed to use it and has access to it?
- What is 'pragmatic literacy'?
- Does writing have the same 'illocutionary force' as speech? How far can
a record represent that 'illocutionary force'?
- Is writing a symbol as much as content -- i.e. is there a semiotic
- 'Literacy can be examined, not just in quantitative terms of measurable "uses",
but in qualitative terms, as a form of ideology through which power is
constructed' (Janet Nelson, 'Literacy in Carolingian government' in R.
McKitterick, ed., The Uses of Literacy in the Early Middle Ages
(Cambridge, 1990), p. 258). How far can this concept be applied to other
- How far does the language (register) of writing represent the
language of underlying orality (for example, in oaths)?
- Is the register of language (code) more significant in writing than
in oral discourse?
- How does the issue of royal precepts in the late Old English period
change in terms of orality and literacy, and the symbolic importance
The court roll of the Merton College manor of Barkby (Leics.) in the summer
of 1289 recorded the following in the context of general disputes between
the customary tenants and the new lord, Merton College, and in a plea
Quia Inquisicio dicit quod de assensu omnium tenencium fecerunt
unam literam falsam ad dominam de Ros nomine Ricardi de sancto Johanne
In absentia sua ideo omnes In misericordia Et quia Willelmus Ernald
clericus scripsit literam predictam
[marginal note] amerciamentum illud taxatur ad voluntatem domine de Ros
[Notes: Richard de Sancto Johanne was the College's steward; William
Ernald belonged to a local family of customary tenants, the Ernalds.]
Item prepositus quia negauit literam quam fecit Custodi pro Johanne
Ernald et Christiana uxore sua ut patet in cedula pendente in rotulo Ideo
in misericordia plegii Willelmus pleytur et Radulphus Bercarius
Inquisicio dicit quod non fuerunt ad assensum nec consensum faciendi
literam in qua continebatur quod Christiana quondam filia Hereberti
non proposuit nec voluit terram que fuit predicti Hereberti et hoc contra
voluntatem Roggeri fratris sui ... quod Roggerus filius Hereberti perfecit
literam istam sponte [sic] et non per consensum tenentium nostrorum nec per
assensum prepositi Ideo dictus Roggerus in misericordia plegii Willelmus
Daleby Henricus Bonde Radulphus Franceys Roggerus filius Hereberti [sic]
In this case, an earlier entry explains the issue:
Radulphus filius Hereberti custumarius dominorum est mortuus ideo terra
et tenementa sua capiantur in manu dominorum et venit Roggerus filius et
heres dicti Radulphi et petiebat hereditatem patris sui et Jus secundum
consuetudinem manerii et quia senescallus inuenit quod Johannes Ernald et
Christiana soror eiusdem Roggeri habuerunt ingressum in dicto tenemento
per custodem ponitur in Respectum usque senescallus habuerit colloquium
cum dicto Custode saluis dominis .xx.s. pro ingressu ...
[The Custos is the Warden of Merton College.]
Note not only the use of written instruments in this issue, but also the
use of the notion of inheritance of customary [villein] lands conceded
in the College's language in its rolls.
[Merton College, Oxford, Merton Muniments -- if you are interested, ask for the