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Author Topic: What's Everyone Reading?  (Read 142996 times)

Horsa

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #60 on: November 07, 2011, 03:28:31 PM »

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[ T]ough fearless warriors making up new songs, I'm reminded of the origins of  rap and hip hop
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Now, are you telling me rap and hip hop did get started amongst military men?  I’d be eager to hear more, if so.


No, I was looking for analogues. What struck me most with your post is when you said that it's difficult to imagine "tough hombres with hairs up their nostrils ... who know eighteen ways to rip my arm off," enjoying a sing-song or even composing one. And indeed it certainly was difficult for me, but then I started thinking up all those situations where tough hombres do sing and do make up songs. I started thinking about ideas of maleness, and there does seem to be this idea in modern Anglo-american culture of the strong silent type, actions mean more than words, and that facility with words marks you out as a weedy professor or an effete Keats-ish poet.

That's why I mentioned hip hop. Now rap and hip hop is written down before hand before the rapper steps into the recording studio, but the origins of hip hop were that young tough black men hanging around on the streets, to pass the time, would make up extempore poetry. The function of this was to show off one's wit and the ability to choose words that rhyme. The connection was not with the military but with manliness.

The norse came up with Drottkvaett and hrynhenda - incredibly restrictive forms that also had incredibly convoluted language. Many of the norse writings suggest that the authors made up the poems on the spot. However, Egil Skallagrimsson, is said to have sat up all night trying to compose höfuðlausn, but I get the sense in Norse society, eloquence is an essential aspect of manliness along with being tough. The mention of extempore composition reinforces the idea of the passing around of the gleewood and versifying on one's own deeds of boldness.

This kind of reminds me that one of the barriers to understanding the culture/s of the middle ages is our almost invisible unquestioned assumptions and biases like the one about manliness not having a place for music and poetry. When I studied old English, if I remember correctly, the lecturer told us that the culture of the old English was a pride based culture, whereas we live in a shame based culture. We're supposed to be modest, self-deprecating and apologetic. The lecturer suggested that this would be alien and confusing to the pre-conquest English, who never ever could or would say sorry, but would be more than happy to tell you how great they are in minute detail.

In terms of the songs serving as repositories of knowledge I’ve got nothing apart fromhthe feeling that it makes perfect sense. It’s a pre-literature or proto-literate society so they’re not going to have manuals. Set something to music with a mnemonic device - alliteration and/or rhyme - and you can memorise boat loads of it quickly and seemingly indefinitely cf your “engineers’ song” (extravagant pornographic inanity is a wonderful combination of words)

As regards profanity, Swedish provides an interesting example. The language is ludicrously close to English in many respects. But here are their worst swears with literal translations (correct me if I’m wrong deorca or you lurking Swedes):

Fan - devil
Helvete - hell
Djävlar - devils
Dra åt helvete - go to hell
för helvete - for hell
ett fanskap - a devilishness. (translates english a ‘f***ing thing’ I suppose)

Sweden is a very very secular country, but these words still have the ability to shock. It took me a long time to realize how powerful they were. Interestingly, in Canada where Iive now, ‘hell’ is considered a swear word. However, in a post puritanical Britain, the sexual swears still have their power.

I would imagine that the Old English swears would be based on Christian theology like your ‘crist on rode’, or how about backforming ‘zounds’ and ‘by our lady’ - ‘cristes wunda’ and ‘be ure hlafdige.’ But I have heard a theory that William Rufus could have been referring to Loki when he swore by the holy face of lucca. So, I’m wondering if, just as religious and sexual terms survive past the shock value of the things they describe, some swearing by the pagan gods could have survived but be doubly taboo in a Christian age. I wonder if there are any Christian writings that warn against swearing by heathen gods.

Wulfric

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #61 on: November 08, 2011, 05:50:19 PM »
That's why I mentioned hip hop. Now rap and hip hop is written down before hand before the rapper steps into the recording studio, but the origins of hip hop were that young tough black men hanging around on the streets, to pass the time, would make up extempore poetry. The function of this was to show off one's wit and the ability to choose words that rhyme. The connection was not with the military but with manliness.

The norse came up with Drottkvaett and hrynhenda - incredibly restrictive forms that also had incredibly convoluted language. Many of the norse writings suggest that the authors made up the poems on the spot. However, Egil Skallagrimsson, is said to have sat up all night trying to compose höfuðlausn, but I get the sense in Norse society, eloquence is an essential aspect of manliness along with being tough.

I would just like to expand a little on the possible strength of this link. As I understand it the true testing ground for amateur or street level rappers is in rap battles. Rappers get on stage in front of a crowd and on occasion official judges and take it in turns to rap. However it seems to be standard practice that the words are usually hostile and personally targeted at the opponent, often getting quite heated. The words still have to work as a rap though, otherwise it would just be hurling insults.

I find this quite interesting considering the Norse tradition of Flyting a ritualised, turn based insult match, as I understand it.

While rappers will spend time thinking up lines and couplings to use, these will only get them so far. The real test of the the rap battle seems to be the ability to turn the opponent's words back on them and then add an insult that they won't be able to make a riposte to.

I'm not suggesting the Anglo-Saxons rapped but as a cultural comparison the image of tough guys using lyrical flare to be the bigger guy without having to draw weapons definitely fits.

I won't post any links because of the language and terms used in many but there are plenty of rap battles viewable on Youtube for the uninitiated. (I just remembered we're not the first to make this connection: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFihfYDCByY )

Out, Wulfric.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 08:49:05 AM by Wulfric »

Horsa

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #62 on: November 25, 2011, 06:36:04 PM »
Having finished reading Aelfric's Lives of the Saints Volume I, I thought it sensible to read Volume II. It starts with St. Mary of Egypt which, according to the introduction, was not written by Aelfric at all but was placed in the book by some early curator. It's a shocking change from Aelfric's nice plain simple style to loads of dative inflected present participles.

It's also a very strange story. At one point St. Mary and the abbot Zosimus both fall at each others feet in humility and deference of the other and stay like that in a kind of christian mexican stand off.

Blackdragon

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #63 on: February 08, 2012, 03:20:18 PM »
Wodens Warriors by Paul Mortimer & Stephen Pollington's The Elder Gods:
The Otherworld of Early England. Both superb from Anglo Saxon books and worth every penny. Well argued, balanced and groundbreaking - recommended.
Pete Jennings

Horsa

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #64 on: February 17, 2012, 06:06:58 PM »
Reading Manticore by Robertson Davies, an amazing Canadian writer, I rate him above Atwood and I like Atwood a lot.

Another Amazing writer, though not Canadian, is Ælfric. I've just finished the second volume of his Lives of the Saints. I kind of slowed up towards the end there as I was a little tired of the format - person converts to Christianity does a few miracles, gets found out by an evil king who tries to torture the saint, God intervenes for a little while, the evil king gets frustrated, God then lets the evil king kill the saint. Repeat 22 times. However, I was enthralled for the first 300 or so pages (I think the two volumes come to about 500 pages of Old English prose! Delicious!). I would recommend it. I find that my old English has improved drastically.

I'm now reading the Old English translation of the Latin life of Guthlac. The prologue was a bit gnarly, but the main text seems to be more straightforward. Anyone read this?

shieldmaiden

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #65 on: March 10, 2012, 09:52:28 AM »
I'm half way through reading 'Harold The King', the story of the Battle of Hastings by Helen Hollick.

We went to Battle in October for the 1066 Reenactments, it was such a great day out! Especially when the kids booed William the Conquerer when he came over to the crowd on his horse just after he won! ;D

Horsa

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #66 on: March 13, 2012, 02:28:53 PM »
How are you finding the book?

shieldmaiden

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #67 on: March 16, 2012, 11:59:10 AM »
Really interesting :) its bringing to life the events leading up to 1066, just a pity we lost, Harold would have made a great King.

leofwin

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #68 on: March 16, 2012, 03:48:17 PM »
I suspect Harold was probably no less a thug than William.

Horsa

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #69 on: March 16, 2012, 04:52:28 PM »
Oh they're all thugs. Look at how Godwin and his cynn bullied Edward. I've always thought of early mediaeval nobility in a sense as thugs or mafiosi. They take protection money of peasants, and they protect them from other nobles.

However, was it pure naked greed of Harold to rush south when he heard of land being laid waste. Was he thinking "oh no! There goes my profits!"

I think a democratically elected king, by default, rates lower on the thug-o-meter than the guy who comes along and lays waste to the land and builds castles to intimidate and control the populace.

I started reading Harold the King a few years back, but I didn't like it very much, but I think that's because I had just finished Rathbone's excellent (though weird at times) The Last English King. I really enjoyed that book and I think it was hard to switch from one version of Harold and Sweyn to another.

mauned

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #70 on: August 09, 2012, 07:33:22 PM »
Frank Stenton's "Anglo Saxon England". Enjoying it as well. Plus Beowulf on audiobook, for the car!

Mark Case

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #71 on: December 22, 2012, 10:45:58 PM »
I'm also reading Stenton's book. It's an excellent read - packed full of detail. In fact, there are so many details that I've had to reread several sections just to remember who overthrew/ killed/ fled from whom.


Out of curiosity, I had a look at its Amazon reviews, which were surprisingly negative. It seems there might be a bit too much scholarship and not enough illustrations for the modern reader of early English history!


I've also read Harold the Last Anglo Saxon King by Ian Walker recently. This biography aims to do justice to Harold's reputation, and I think it succeeds. It's not often that I get off a train reading a book and find myself still glued to it when I reach my front door, but I did with this one.

Jayson

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #72 on: January 12, 2013, 05:14:29 PM »
1.  Product Details  Old English Phrases for the Traveler to Anglo-Saxon England by Mary Savelli (30 Jul 2011)    4 out of 5 stars (1 customer review)
 
FormatsPriceNewUsed
Kindle Edition Available for download now£3.16
 
I've just bought this from Amazon and it's great fun!   Just what we need when we go travelling in Old England.
Wessex Woman

Mark Case

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #73 on: May 16, 2013, 11:45:11 AM »
I'm reading "An Alternative History of Britain: The Anglo-Saxon Age" by Timothy Venning at the moment. I will be reviewing it in the next  Withowinde provided I get it read and written in time.


It's pretty interesting, and deals with a LOT more than 1066. In fact, it deals with events throughout the entire Anglo-Saxon period.

peter horn

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #74 on: May 17, 2013, 11:04:07 AM »
I'm reading "An Alternative History of Britain: The Anglo-Saxon Age" by Timothy Venning at the moment. I will be reviewing it in the next  Withowinde provided I get it read and written in time.


It's pretty interesting, and deals with a LOT more than 1066. In fact, it deals with events throughout the entire Anglo-Saxon period.


Mark,  I understand from our Bocere that the forthcoming WW is a bumper edition packed with articles etc, so you may have to put your review in the following edition of WW. 
Peter