Beowulf: Orality and Postliteracy

Kelly Maudslien. English 111, Cyberspace, VR, and Critical Theory, 1998

To compare an oral epic, composed perhaps as long as 1500 years ago, with cyberspace, a communication medium barely out of its infancy, at first may seem absurd. Orality is based on the spoken and the heard; hypertext resides in visual space. Yet they share a surprising number of characteristics. Beowulf is a laterally structured epic; it has little penetrative, linear narrative and instead relies on accumulating various interconnected episodes. This web is structured in a similar horizontal way, and itself uses the Old English techniques of variation and repetition to illustrate an argument, rather than logical analysis.
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