WiSe 16/17: PS-Medieval English Literatures II: Old English Heroic and Elegiac Poetry
The majority of the surviving Anglo-Saxon texts in Old English, both poetic and prose, are devoted to religious and spiritual concerns. By contrast, the texts most popular with both academics and a wider modern readership are those that lend themselves to secular interpretations. Foremost among these are the so-called heroic poems and elegies. Both genres are modern categories – we do not know how (and if) those who produced the respective poems would have classed them. Academic responses to these texts have often been characterized by the application of binary categories such as pagan versus Christian, heroic/secular versus religious or oral versus literary. However, such oppositions may have more to do with modern narratives of enlightenment and secularization than with the medieval milieus in which the texts were produced and read.
This seminar aims to acquaint students with some of the best-known Old English poems, such as The Wanderer, The Seafarer and Beowulf, as well as some lesser known ones. It is also designed to provide students with a basic knowledge of the Old English language, as we will translate passages from the respective poems. Alongside the primary texts, we will also read and discuss secondary texts dealing with theoretical and methodological issues. Students should bring to this class an interest in the Anglo-Saxon period as well as in earlier forms of the English language or, at least, in decoding seemingly mysterious writings. You are expected to have acquainted yourselves with excerpts from An Introduction to Old English by Bruce Mitchell and Fred Robinson by the second session (a PDF will be available on Blackboard before the start of the term) and to prepare the respective primary and secondary texts as they occur on the syllabus. These, too, will be provided on Blackboard. The final mark will be based on regular and active participation and a final essay of 2000 words, to be handed in by the end of the semester.close
16 Class schedule