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Reading, literacy, and the writing of History in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
By Thomas Arlin Bredehoft
PhD Dissertation, Ohio State University, 1994
Introduction: Undertaking a re-examination of the ways in which scholars and editors have read the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a formidable task, involving one in the reading and interpretation of dozens (if not hundreds) of texts over a spain of eleven hundred years. There are Old English and Latin texts to consider, as well as the accumulated scholarship of over four hundred years of Chronicle study. There are printed texts, facsimiles, and the manuscripts themselves to be read, not to mention reconstructions and editions of other manuscripts long since destroyed. There is prose, some pithy, some prolix, and poetry, the Anglo-Saxons’ record of British history from Julius Caesar’s invasion to the Danish and Norman conquests and beyond.
If, in the process of reading such a diversity of materials, one is attempted to focus upon the act of reading itself, in its own multiformity, surely one can be forgiven. The materials demand it, in fact. If the Chronicle is where the Anglo-Saxons told themselves their own story from the beginning, in the history of Chronicle scholarship Anglo-Saxonists can find the story of themselves. By rereading our own story, though, we can discover our own illusions, about ourselves and about the Anglo-Saxons, and rediscover a way to read the Anglo-Saxons’ story as they would have wanted us to.