Epistolary Acts: Anglo-Saxon Letters and Early English Media

Epistolary Acts: Anglo-Saxon Letters and Early English Media

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By Jordan Zweck
Toronto Anglo-Saxon Series
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2017
World Rights
256 Pages
ISBN 9781487501006
Available Dec 2017
Online discount: 25%
 $75.00    $56.25

As challenging as it is to imagine how an educated cleric or wealthy lay person in the early Middle Ages would have understood a letter (especially one from God), it is even harder to understand why letters would have so captured the imagination of people who might never have produced, sent, or received letters themselves.

In Epistolary Acts, Jordan Zweck examines the presentation of letters in early medieval vernacular literature, including hagiography, prose romance, poetry, and sermons on letters from heaven, moving beyond traditional genre study to offer a radically new way of conceptualizing Anglo-Saxon epistolarity. Zweck argues that what makes early medieval English epistolarity unique is the performance of what she calls “epistolary acts,” the moments when authors represent or embed letters within vernacular texts. The book contributes to a growing interest in the intersections between medieval studies and media studies, blending traditional book history and manuscript studies with affect theory, media studies, and archive studies.

Jordan Zweck is an assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Introduction: Epistolary Acts and The Husband’s Message

Chapter One: Reconstructing the Anglo-Saxon ars dictaminis: Form, Vocabulary, and Immediacy

Chapter Two: Spreading the Word: the Sunday Letter, Mass Communication, and the Self-Replicating Document

Chapter Three: Messengers, Materiality, and Transmission in the Old English Apollonius of Tyre, Letter of Abgar, and Mary of Egypt

Chapter Four: Bodies of Record: Witnessing, Memory, and Erasure in Ælfric’s Life of Basil and the Anonymous Old English Legend of the Seven Sleepers

Epilogue: Epistolary Afterlives