Practices Of Communication

Literacy, gestures and words: research on late medieval communication

Authored by: Franz-Josef Arlinghaus

The Routledge Companion to Cultural History in the Western World

Print publication date:  September  2020
Online publication date:  September  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138649460
eBook ISBN: 9781003080206
Adobe ISBN:


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During the centuries we focus on here, people communicated in very refined and highly differentiated ways. Therefore the chapter not only tries to focus on literacy, orality, messengers and rituals, but also attempts to shed light on how a combination of these elements in a given situation worked. The objective is to modify the motion that rituals are irrational and literacy means rationalization. Rituals are increasingly seen as an expression of clever political moves, and charters, books and the reading of texts portrayed as ritualized performances. While dichotomies seem to vanish and teleological narrative is discredited, despite long and intense research efforts, the relationship between rituals, literacy and medieval society is still a story ending with ‘to be continued’.

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