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Articles - CfP Topic

Vol. 7 No. 1 (2021): Materiality of Writing. Reconsidering Religious Texts

In the Orality / Aurality of the Book: Inclusivity and Liturgical Language

August 17, 2020


The paper examines the role of language in the constitution of a common identity through its liturgical use at the Eastern Orthodox Church of Saint Andrew in Edinburgh (Scotland). Open to moving populations, the parish holds a rather multinational character (with people of 30 different nationalities). It is a place of worship for populations that consider Christian Orthodox Culture as part of a long established collective identity (i.e. Russian, Rumanian and Greeks) and converts that are recently received in its context (including a considerable number of locals). Based on ethnographic research (long periods of observation and interviews), archival work and theoretical contextualisation, the paper will examine the atmospheric materiality of the written text as performed by the readers, the choir and the clergy. This sound-scape is an amalgamation of different kinds of reading: prose, chanted prose, chanting, antiphonic, depending on where at the Liturgy is specifically read. The language of the book is performative: the choreography and its symbolisms perform the words of the texts and vice versa. Adding to this, the use of at least four different languages in every service and two different Eastern Orthodox chanting styles (Slavonic, Byzantine) in combination with European influences (reflecting the unavoidable compromisations that the transposition from style to style and language to language involves) expresses in the most tangible way a practising religious inclusivity that has been carefully cultivated in this parish. Through closer examination of literary transformation processes, I suggest the important role of liturgical language in the creation of communal space-times that negotiate the ideas of home and belonging in a new land.