From Bede to Bebo: School of English event on communication through the ages

Posted by mjs76 at Mar 20, 2012 12:10 PM |
The launch of three books and one postgraduate course is celebrated this Thursday by our busy School of English with a public event of readings and discussion.

Under the banner ‘Røk, Paper, Tweeters: Changing modes in the transmission of English’, the event features three books on communication from different eras.

The old Norse word ‘Røk’ can mean “development, origin, cause, relation, fate or end” and signifies Dr Philip A Shaw’s book Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda and the Cult of Matrons which was published last year by Bristol Classical Press. The nub of Dr Shaw’s argument is that previous study of the extent of Germanic goddess worship in Britain has “tended to focus too heavily on the notion of divine functions or spheres of activity, such as fertility or warfare, rather than considering the extent to which goddesses are rooted in localities and social structures.”

In his book, Dr Shaw re-evaluates the meaning and significance of two Germanic goddesses, Hreda and Eostre, who are only known from after-the-fact descriptions by the Venerable Bede in his 8th century work De Temporum Ratione. According to Bede, Pagan tribes associated these two ladies (whose names can be spelled various ways with the modern alphabet) with the months of March and April. In fact, Eostre provides the derivation of the word ‘Easter’.

At the other end of history is Stories and Social Media: Identities and Interaction by Ruth Page, published by Routledge, an analysis of gender differences in social media usage which we wrote about in December.


Inbetween these two chronologically is the written and spoken language documented in Professor Julie Coleman’s The Life of Slang (newly out from OUP) which ranges from only a few centuries after Bede right up to the latest internet slang.

Very much aimed at the ordinary reader rather than academics, Professor Coleman’s book traces the development of English slang through the ages, digging up along the way lots of fascinating information about origins and usage. It also shows that much apparently contemporary slang apparently has been around a very long time. There has been a great deal of press interest in the book, with terrific pieces in the ‘Grauniad*, the ‘Indie’ and the ‘Currant Bun’.

Buy these books from our University Bookshop

Event details - Thursday 22 March

All three authors will be reading from and discussing their work at the ‘Røk, Paper, Tweeters’ event on Thursday 22 March 2012, which is free and open to the public. This will be held in the Ken Edwards Building, Lecture Theatre 2, from 5.00pm to 6.00pm, followed by a drinks reception. Also formally launched at the event will be our new MA in English Language and Linguistics, available now on campus and, from 2013, as a distance learning course.

*Technically it was in the Observer, but it’s on the Guardian website.

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