THE BREAKDOWN OF THE ARCHIVE AND INSCRIBED ORALITY

The alternative interpretation of the significance of the ASC and the archive that it instantiates, given in the previous section, does not attempt to create continuity or coherence. In contrast to Howard’s interpretation, it allows us to posit that all the manuscript copies of the ASC were copied from the same original source, whether or not items were added from other sources (e.g. from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, from northern or Mercian annals) or altered after the original copy had been made (e.g. the changes made to the genealogy of the Wessex royal dynasty or the possibility that Wulfstan did have the Worcester D manuscript rewritten in favour of Edmund Ironside). It also allows us to suggest that the copies were made later than Howard assumes, and it relieves us of having to speculate on the existence of exemplars such as the York/Ripon copy. More important than Howard’s schematic history is a clear indication of when each version of the chronicle begins and ends its reporting, even though this destroys the attempt to impose chronological continuity and coherence. The alternative interpretation presented in figure 3.3 also documents the decentralisation of the records from the beginning of the renewed Danish invasions in 991 and ^.thelrad’s death in 1016, a decentralisation which indicates changes in the archive.

In this section I shall argue that the First and Second Continuations of the Peterborough Chronicle show a movement away from a degree of mediacy[1] in the written medium (see the top half of fig. 3.1) towards a degree of immediacy and informality typical of the oral medium (i.e. there is a movement closer to the line separating texts in the written and those in the oral medium and farther towards the left of the figure). This can be shown by the increase in the number of forms of inscribed orality represented by metapragmatic and metadiscursive expressions, the general effect of which is to create a narrative persona that is not appropriate to the dominant sociopolitical archive originally instantiated in the ASC. Before I give examples of inscribed orality, however, the following subsection will give more information about the source text to be used for the analysis, the Peterborough Chronicle.

  • [1] The mediacy is nowhere near optimal mediacy in the top right-hand corner of figure 3.1, for thesimple reason that the texts of the ASC had to be formulaic and short enough to be consigned to memory fororal transmission later.
 
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