chapter  1
33 Pages

Latinity and the English People

This chapter illustrates how Latin can take on potentially unifying roles, especially as envisioned in Venerable Bede's understanding of the Pentecost. It explains how conceptions of Englishness and an English language can serve unifying functions in a landscape populated by speakers of a variety of languages. The Venerable Bede one of the most important authors from the Anglo-Saxon period produced a wide range of Latin works that nevertheless helped to shape a sense of English identity and to frame English-language textuality. It is clear in the Historia ecclesiastica that Bede was interested in different kinds of linguistic boundaries, both those between different languages and those between written and spoken forms of communication. By the time Bede reached adulthood, Northumbria was unusual in that people have relatively abundant evidence of individuals, texts, and physical books, beyond what is seen elsewhere in Anglo-Saxon England before the late ninth century and the scholarly circle at the court of Alfred the Great.