Theses Doctoral

Aural Literacy: Rhetorical Community and Shared Sayings in Late Medieval England

Fenn, Jessica

This dissertation analyzes aural literacy, or learning by hearing, in late medieval English literary works by Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Usk, and Margery Kempe. Aural literacy enabled late medieval people to engage with the literate tradition by adopting short, formulaic phrases such as proverbs, parables, and sermon stories. These phrases, or shared sayings, became part of a common hoard of aural resources widely available to many due to the late medieval practice of reading texts aloud. Shared sayings' conventional uses joined their speakers together into rhetorical communities, or groups of people with similar ideas as to how these sayings functioned in the world. Rhetorical communities offered a platform for contested and divergent ways of speaking that threatened these conventional uses, as late medieval speakers turned shared sayings to their own purposes, provoking angry resistance in their attempts to change their positions within their societies.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Crane, Susan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 2, 2014