The crafting of sound in the riddles of the Exeter Book
in Riddles at work in the early medieval tradition
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This chapter proposes a new grouping of Exeter Book riddles which share a semantic and metaphorical interest in ‘craft’ and ‘sound’: the acoustic craft riddles. In these riddles, worked objects speak, ring, and resound, while the practices which transform raw materials into artefacts are often euphonious and resonant in their own right. The soundscape of the craftsman’s workshop – its musical and melodious contexts – and the gifting of sounding voice to worked objects opens up the riddles to a celebration of the most meaningful of all audible human gifts: language, both spoken and written. This chapter explores how the acoustic craft riddles offer us a new critical picture of riddlic textuality which puts the material into a playful and rich relationship with the aural: sound and language can be crafted, like raw materials, in the production of aural artefacts. The riddles do not only rely on the voices of their poets; their linguistic mechanisms presuppose the social and communal value of the text within the word exchange: they leave space for the reader’s own voice to resonate in response and to re-craft solutions and propositions through the shaping power of their own voices.

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