This course offers an introduction to the language and literature of pre-Conquest England. The range of texts for reading and translation includes stories about the miraculous origins of English verse, the beast-killing heroics of Beowulf, the disastrous defeat of the Maldon men, who strove to save their homes from slaughterous Vikings … and failed; or did they? We’ll also read some more contemplative verse, including the mournful meditations of the hope-hindered warrior in the Wanderer and the peculiar confession of the Holy Cross, which tells its side of the Crucifixion. We might also have the time to read a saint’s life or two.
As we plod through the grammar—and understand that this will require a deal of memorization on your part—we’ll incorporate lectures and discussions on various aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture: the origins of the Anglo-Saxons themselves, where they lived, what they ate; we’ll have a look at some manuscript facsimiles and talk about the book-making process; and we’ll cover some important archaeological discoveries (Sutton Hoo, Staffordshire) and consider how these relate to the literature. In the end, you’ll have a working knowledge of Old English, which means you'll be to translate with the help of a dictionary.
AUDIO FILES (GRAMMAR)
AUDIO FILES (LITERATURE)
Opening of Beowulf (Guide, p. 295)
Story of Caedmon (Guide, p. 230)