What does it mean to tell stories without narratives? Do the formal effects of poetry - at perhaps as basic a level as lineation - alter the content of the poem? What about the formal effects of media - literally, the means by which a poem or story is transmitted? Does the technology used to record and transmit a thought have an impact on the thought itself, in production or reception? Can the very same thoughts be expressed and understood via cuneiform tablets, papyrus scrolls, printed paper codices (bound books), and even web pages? Or does something else change as the material of communication changes?
This lecture considers the Anglo Saxon poetry found in early Medieval manuscripts - only four of which are known to exist - and asks us to consider the categories we typically apply to poetry, such as Epic, Lyric, and Elegiac, in the historical and material contexts of the Anglo Saxon world. Do these categories still apply?