English Language and Literature ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-15-2021


Despite his own high level of literacy and education, the Venerable Bede (672/3–735) inhabited a world in which nearly all personal, social, educational, and political discourse was conducted orally. A thorough understanding of his works will require an understanding of this discourse, but attempts to apply broad theories of “orality” derived from other cultures to early medieval England have repeatedly foundered. This dissertation establishes a set of guiding principles to produce a more nuanced and localized model of discourse in Bede’s England and observes a variety of ways oral and literate forms of rhetoric were employed by political actors in events culminating with the synod of Nidd (706). This foundation provides a detailed rhetorical context for interpreting several of Bede’s works, including his letter to Ecgberht, his prose Life of Cuthbert, and his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Professor Timothy Graham

Second Committee Member

Professor Anita Obermeier

Third Committee Member

Professor Jonathan Davis-Secord

Fourth Committee Member

Professor Michelle Kells




Bede, oral history, literacy, rhetoric, early-medieval England, Nidd

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