The Word Made Flesh: Christianity and Oral Culture in Anglo-Saxon Verse
Oral Tradition, Volume 24, Number 2
This paper considers the interface between the native, inherited, secular, vernacular, and oral legacy in Anglo-Saxon poetry and that of the foreign, imported, Christian, Latin, and written tradition that subsumed and largely supplanted it, at least in the extant record. A variety of Anglo-Saxon poets and poems are considered, including Aldhelm, Bede, Alcuin, and Boniface in Latin, and Cædmon and Cynewulf in Old English, as well as a range of anonymous poems including Beowulf, Andreas, Guthlac B, The Seafarer, and The Paris Psalter. The shared roles of memory, imitation, and self-conscious coinage in both Latin and Old English are considered, and it is suggested that traces of a once-thriving oral tradition that was partly shared by literate and illiterate poets alike can still be detected in the surviving written record.