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«EDITORIAL BOARD Mark McCahill, Editor-in-Chief (Glasgow) Ian McIver, Managing Editor (Glasgow) Cornelia Hakansson, Production Editor (Glasgow) ...»

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Volume 1, April 2013



Mark McCahill, Editor-in-Chief (Glasgow)

Ian McIver, Managing Editor (Glasgow)

Cornelia Hakansson, Production Editor (Glasgow)

Gillian Achurch (Edinburgh)

David M.T. Arnold (Edinburgh)

Hanna Bailey (Aberdeen)

Ben Conway (Aberdeen)

Eleanor Dillon (Glasgow)

Lucy Lou (Edinburgh)

Malina McLennan (St Andrews)

Timothy Poirson (St Andrews) Anyusha Rose (St Andrews) Craig Stanford (Aberdeen) Juliette Tonner (Glasgow) Helen Weir (Glasgow)


Dr Franz Berto (Aberdeen) Dr Lynn Dobson (Edinburgh) Dr Catherine Jones (Aberdeen) Dr Steven Lawrie (Aberdeen) Dr Steve Marritt (Glasgow) Dr Robert Mason (Edinburgh) Professor Elizabeth Moignard (Glasgow) Professor Thomas Munck (Glasgow) Dr Chris Ogden (St Andrews) Dr Taryn Shepperd (St Andrews) Dr Bernhard Struck (St Andrews) Honorary Professor Belinda Thomson (Edinburgh)


Mark McCahill Cornelia Hakansson Crests reproduced with permission of the Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews TEXT © The contributors


University of Aberdeen University of Edinburgh University of Glasgow University of St Andrews


J. Thomson Colour Printers, Glasgow


Glasgow University Dialectic Society 32 University Avenue, Glasgow, G12 8LX, in conjunction with the Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews


Editorial 5 A library in the landscape: to what extent do runic scripts provide evidence 7 of a ‘literate’ Viking culture?

Rob Henthorn (Aberdeen) Arranging the mind’s museum: Proust as a curator of experience? 16 Benedict Jones-Williams (Aberdeen) Consolidating a nation: identity and culture in the poetry of Robert Burns 26 Derek F. Stewart (Aberdeen) Scottish devolution: should social security remain the responsibility 37 of the UK government solely?

Jasmine Goldstein (Edinburgh) Unity and independence: examining the boundaries between individuals and 46 society in discourses of health, illness and remedy in World War One poetry, specifically Wilfred Owen’s ‘Disabled’ and Eva Dobell’s ‘In A Soldier’s Hospital 1: Pluck’ Shoshana Kessler (Edinburgh) Popular support and national unity in the Nazis’ rise to power 54 Nathan Low (Edinburgh) Vox et Potestas: personal communication through the built environment of 61 Rome in the time of Augustus Mark McCahill (Glasgow) Walls have mouths: architectural emblems in the Glasgow City Chambers 76 Kirsten Somerville (Glasgow) Écriture féminine and the female language of Lady Gaga

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Shashin and the narrow road to the exterior: a discussion of the extent to which 127 the early photography of Japan is a photography of the non-Japanese C.J.A. Perriam (St Andrews)


In this, the first volume of Groundings Ancients, we witness a unique collaboration of undergraduates and academics from the four ancient universities of Scotland: Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and St Andrews. The scope of involvement and participation for both the Editorial Board, and the Academic Advisory Board, shows the commitment and excellence of the respective institutions, ultimately advertised by the quality of student work (authors and editors alike) on display within the journal. Equally, the extent of participation across the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences schools and faculties of each university demonstrates the resolve of students and academics to engage and co-operate, in both intervarsity and cross-disciplinary spheres.

In a year that sees the University of St Andrews celebrate its 600th anniversary, their theme of ‘Time and Tradition’ resonates with a long and distinguished history within the educational framework of Scotland. For the University of Glasgow, their theme of ‘Voice and Power’ mirrors, however coincidentally, the recent efforts of that university’s Dialectic Society in arranging the first student referendum on Scottish independence. With the University of Aberdeen, their theme of ‘Memory and Experience’ reflects more than 500 years of student engagement. And the University of Edinburgh, with their theme of ‘Unity and Independence’ evokes the dichotomy of a ‘shared’ notion, as the 2014 Scottish independence referendum looms.

This journal was created to showcase the academic abilities of undergraduates at the four ancient universities of Scotland. Its existence is derived from the formulation of an idea early Spring 2012, the consistent support of academics at each ancient university, and the considerable talents of undergraduate editors and authors. It is very much more than the sum of its parts, with credit due to Professor Margaret Ross, Vice Principal at the University of Aberdeen; Professor Dorothy Miell, Vice Principal at the University of Edinburgh; Professor Frank Coton, Vice Principal at the University of Glasgow, and Professor Nic Beech, Dean of Arts at the University of St Andrews. The Editorial Board deserve special mention as well;

their collective efforts – as the torch bearers and first-ever editors of Groundings Ancients – will, it is hoped, be carried on for many volumes to come.

–  –  –

A library in the landscape: to what extent do runic scripts provide evidence of a ‘literate’ Viking culture?

Rob Henthorn.

The study of vernacular literacy in Scandinavian societies has focused largely on the extent to which literacy in the latinate sense can be applied to the contemporary uses of runic script. With a few exceptions, the current analyses have avoided taking into account the interplay between oral practices that defined Scandinavian society and the surviving runic corpus. Drawing on a more fluid interpretation of ‘literacy’, and extending previous explorations into runic textuality, this article explores the place of written texts in Viking oral cultures. It also begins to address the broader question of how ‘literacy’ as a concept should be approached in the context of medieval Scandinavian history, and argues for an understanding of ‘runic literacy’ which is linked explicitly to oral practices and social interactions in their cultural landscape.

Any casual reading of the literature on Viking Age Scandinavia will indicate it was a ‘predominantly oral’1 society. The most famous linguistic relics, from Njals saga to the Prose Edda, are littered with depictions of legal process and community life played out through spoken acclamation, with laws and diplomacy ratified almost exclusively through others being present to hear them. And yet, it is well known that the Vikings wrote in runes. Over 3000 standing-stones bearing runic inscriptions are distributed unevenly across Scandinavia, and some 6000 total runic artefacts reside in the archaeological canon.2 Such an extraordinary proliferation of rune stones and other inscribed artefacts, produced within a society that appears functionally heedless of the written word, might initially strike the historian as something of a contradiction: did a wholly oral legal culture really exist alongside the very same written technologies we expect to sweep aside those oral traditions? It is no surprise, then, that the question of how literate Viking societies were, when it comes to runic scripts, has become an important question for historians and runographers alike.

We are called, then, to examine the state of pre-Latin ‘literacy’ amongst the peoples of Scandinavia, and though much of the discussion of ‘Viking literacy’ has centered around how many of the people – and what sort of people – living in Viking Age Scandinavia could read ROB HENTHORN is a fourth-year History and Philosophy student at the University of Aberdeen. His particular academic interests include Non-Classical Logics, the philosophy of language and analytic approaches to cultural history. He previously ran the Aberdeen University Philosophy Society (2011/12), and now spends most of his time arguing with university administrators and working within the anti-cuts movement.

K. Zilmer, ‘On the Symbiosis of Orality and Literacy in some Christian Rune Stone Inscriptions’ in (eds.) A. Ney, et al., Á austrvega. Saga and East Scandinavia. Preprint Papers of the 14th International Saga Conference (Uppsala, 2010), 1075.

Ibid., 1073.

or produce runic inscriptions to a ‘literate’ standard,3 the more relevant question is to what extent the society as a whole can be seen as reliant on literate process, with written texts taking an authoritative position in society.4 This hallmark, which Stock terms ‘textuality’, is best defined as the circumstance of writing fulfilling a communicative role in a society where a number of literate people display parallel use of texts.5 That ‘literacy’ and ‘textuality’ are by no means synonymous is an important notion here. A ‘textual community’, as Stock points out, might well include a large number of illiterate individuals, who are nonetheless involved in the use of texts - which in Viking society could include those who carved inscriptions only as copyists or recognised the importance of runic inscriptions (perhaps as a magical device or legal hallmarks) without being able to understand the semantic content of the inscriptions themselves.6 Likewise, literate individuals can clearly be present within a community which is non-textual. The question of Viking ‘literacy’ has an extra dimension under this analysis, since there is clear evidence of much literacy by way of runic inscriptions, but also much evidence that Viking society was constructed around orality rather than textuality: lacking a legal tradition based on written documents, vocal acclamation was at the very heart of legal practises. The extent to which a ‘runic textuality’ might exist alongside oral culture and interact with it is central to understanding the manner in which Viking society can be said to have been literate.

As such, the investigative procedure here is to examine the available runic inscriptions themselves for evidence of their use in a ‘runically textual’ society. The question of orality’s interaction with runic literacy can likewise be addressed, by seeking out aspects of oral culture embedded within runic inscriptions, and analyzing the manner in which oral practices and forms are preserved or subverted in written texts. Allowing a broadening in our understanding of what a “runic text” constitutes, and so loosening our Latinate constraints on ‘literacy’, the place of runic script in Viking society may well yet be found more central than supposed in isolation of context, and the ‘textuality’ of Viking society rescued from falsely narrow definitions of ‘literacy’.

See discussion around this question by J. Meijer, ‘Literacy in the Viking Age’, Blandade runstudier.2, J. Jesch et al., (Uppsala, 1997), 83–99.

S. Brink, ‘Verba Volant, Scripta Manent? Aspects of the Oral Society in Scandinavia’, in P. Hermann (ed.) Literacy in medieval and Early Modern Scandinavian culture (Odense, 2005), 60.

T. Spurkland, ‘Literacy and ‘Runacy’ in Medieval Scandinavia’ in J. Adams and K. Holman (eds) Scandinavia and Europe (Turnhout, 2004), 66.

B. Stock, The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Princeton, 1983), 90.

Since rune stones carry the largest surviving source of runic script – there are over 2000 examples in Sweden alone7 – the roles of commemoration and memorialization are naturally considered foremost in the study of runes as historical evidence. Rune stones raised as memorial pieces, preserving the names both of the deceased, and the ‘sponsor’ (usually a family member) who had the stone made, comprise a significant proportion of the existing corpus, and thus cause some historians to deny any broader communicative role the texts exhibit. Brink highlights the pattern of short, uniform inscriptions as a continuation of ritual memorization, rather than literate commemoration rising to replace oral practice with the fashion for rune stones in the early eleventh century.8 Even with Christian memorial stones, this analysis finds support in the formulaic reuse of prayer inscriptions – some variation on ‘May God now help his spirit’9 is an addition to the pre-Christian inscription formula on lateViking and early medieval artefacts, mirroring a funeral recital.10 However, this commemorative process can also be interpreted as a passively communicative action, when runic texts of this sort are considered in the context of their location and specific mode of address. The Berga stone (also in Uppland) is noted by Zilmer as carrying an ‘extralinguistic’ communicative phrase alongside the wholly commemorative passage: the prayer variation, ‘This is now said for his soul: may God help’11, commemorates also the stone itself, and the act of it having been erected.12 Combined with a prominent position on a road, and the inscription referring to the nearby bridge, a runically literate passer-by might see the stone as a document of commemoration, rather than how western literates look at a headstone today – the act of prayer is recorded, the good deed of the bridge attributed, and the sponsors named.

While the echoing of ‘prayer as spoken utterance’ in the inscription is obvious, equating this with Brink’s ‘fossilized orality’ 13 is perhaps over-simplistic. The idea of ‘record keeping’ must be taken loosely, however. Sawyer’s argument that commemorative inscriptions functioned almost universally as legal documents for inheritance claims 14 seems stretched when we are considering these stones as permanent memorialization of the remembrance act, rather than wholesale replacement of the oral tradition. There is no clear example of a runic script being itself used as a legal document, as the oral affirmation of an inscription’s content H. Williams, ‘Runes’, in S. Brink and N. Price (eds.), The Viking World (London, 2011), 284.

Brink, ‘Verba Volant, Scripta Manent’, 67.

U818 – Gyta, Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Available:

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