The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Text – Definition



The beginning might not be the end. And that night

Grendel cam again, so set

On murder that no crime could ever be enough,

No savage assault quench his lust

For evil. Then each warrior tried

To escape him, searched for rest in different

Beds, as far from Herot as they could find,

Seeing how Grendel hunted when they slept.

Distance was safety; the only survivors

Were those who fled him. Hate had triumphed.


Author unknown

Line 134-143

Translated by Burton Raffel

Signet Classic – New American Library, 1963


For a representation of text my initial thought was Beowulf. For me, Beowulf is one of the ultimate representations of text. This epic poem has an unknown author and is thought to be one of the first documented texts in Anglo-Saxon history. Much debate surrounds this poem as it is thought in many scholarly circles to be a collection of oral stories. Walter J. Ong states in his book, Orality and Literacy, the difference between written literature and oral tradition. He states that “Writing makes ‘words’ appear similar to things because we think of words as the visible marks signalling word to decoders: we can see and touch and inscribed ‘words’ in texts and books. Written words are residue. Oral tradition has no such reside or deposit.” (pg. 11). Thus I see the epic poem Beowulf to be a juxtaposition of text and oral traditions. One of the first written documents in the English language is an illustration of the evolution (weaving and stitching) of written English.


There are no comments yet...

Kick things off by filling out the form below.

You must log in to post a comment.