The History of Language in Literature
I find it somewhat disorienting to think of Shakespeare in the context of Modern English (even if considered Early Modern English), as according to the text. Initial introductions to Shakespeare in Middle or High School seemed, at the time, equivalent to being introduced to a foreign language. It is an interesting paradox that we â€ślearnâ€? Shakespearean language by first reading it, then speaking it (if read aloud). I also look back on reading Beowulf, which, from my experience was only taught through reading, not speaking. In what context then, do we put such language? It seems that language which is only read or deciphered, but not utilized as a modern tool for communication carries different connotations than spoken language for many. To look at this from another perspective, the utility of language to communicate (i.e. as a tool) in daily life within relationships or for work seems to take precedence in the 21st Century for a large majority, since English is claimed to be the â€śinternational business languageâ€?. Many view English as a language of utility. This may be fuel used for the arguments that my students give me for hating reading: that language not intended to communicate is not as meaningful. If this were true, literature as an artistic form loses some of its validity when put in such narrow terms. Thus, the evolution of language cannot be restricted simply to what is useful for the times. I think understanding and appreciating the history of the English language is helpful in understanding the transcendence of value in literature, even if the â€śmeaningâ€? for communication is lost in the present times. In simpler terms: just because you cannot inherently speak Old, Middle or Early Modern English does not mean that the language of Beowulf, Chaucerâ€™s Canterbury Tales or Shakespeareâ€™s masterpieces is no longer useful in present times.