This is a course in the literature and
history of England from c. 450 to c. 1100 AD, the period when
the island of Britain was first settled by English-speaking
established their own kingdoms there and, later, their own nation.
Readings, which will be in translation, will include
of Beowulf, substantial selections from Bede’s Ecclesiastical
and The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Asser’s Life of
some lyric, elegiac, and heroic poems, and a variety of other texts
laws, charters, wills, charms, riddles, and the like.Some guidance will be given in the basic
features of the Old English language.Attention
will be paid to the archaeological record, the
and material culture.Considerable
attention will be devoted to the development of monasticism, the
paganism, the production of manuscripts, and the influence of Roman and
Christianity on the formation of Anglo-Saxon thought.
The course is cross-listed between English,
Medieval Studies, and Religious Studies, and an effort will be made to
accommodate the differing perspectives of students specializing in
different but interconnected fields.
course is also designated as “writing-intensive.”Attention
to the process of effective essay writing is an integral part of
Regular attendance, preparation, and
class; two take-home essays c. 6 pages in length, the first of which is
submitted in two drafts; a
midterm exam, a final exam, and occasional spot quizzes; one 2-page
assignment; and a journal
Each take-home essay will count 20%toward the final grade in the course.The midterm exam will count 15% and the final
exam 25%.The remaining 20% of the
final grade will be determined by evidence of genuine engagement in the
of learning, as shown by such factors as attendance in class,
full participation n peer criticism, performance on spot quizzes or
assignments, and completion of a satisfactory journal.
F Jan 20 Bede’s account of Britain, of the
conquest, of St Alban, of himself. End
of bk V
(pp. 329-31); bk I, esp. chs. 1,
6-8. During the next ten days or so also
read Blair, An Introduction, ch. 1
(pp. 1-54) and the first part of ch. 3 (pp. 116-166). Also
C-H, “The Whale,” pp. 287-89); cf. “The
Whale” [OE text].
M Jan 23 The English conquest. Bede, bk I, esp. chs. 10, 12, 14-16. Cf.
Swanton, the annals for the years 449 ff.
Jan 25 The Gregorian
bk I, esp. chs. 22-26, 30; bk II, ch. 1.
F Jan 27 The conversion
of King Edwin of Northumbria. Bede,
esp. chs. 9, 12-13.
M Jan 30 The holy life:
St Oswald and St Aidan. Bede, bk III,
esp chs. 2-6, 9-10, 15-17. W Feb 1 The two
churches, Rome and Iona; the life
of St Cuthbert. Bede,
bk III, esp. chs. 25-26; bk IV, esp. chs.
Feb 3 The Golden Age of Northumbrian manuscript illustration
M Feb 6 Visions
and marvels in Bede. Cædmon’s
inspiration (bk IV, ch. 24). (Cf. C-H,
“Cædmon’s Hymn,” p. 197). Also
Fursey’s vision (bk III, ch. 19); the
nuns of Barking (bk IV, chs. 7-9); the vision of Drythelm (bk V, ch.
12). Cf. Cædmon’s
"Hymn"; click here for audio link.
Feb 8 Anglo-Saxon paganism: Sutton Hoo (slide lecture).
F Feb 10 Anglo-Saxon
paganism: some literary
evidence. C-H, “Deor” and “Three
Charms,” pp. 7-8 and 270-71 respectively. “The
Lay of Volund” and selections from Anglo-Saxon
Magic (CR). “Deor”;
click here for audio link. Recommended: Niles, “Pagan Survivals and Popular
M Feb 13 King
Alfred the Great, warrior-king. Blair
ch. 2, pp. 55-80 and ch. 3, pp. 166-73. Swanton,
annals for the years 793, 837-901;
cf. K&L, pp. 113-20, 171-72.
W Feb 15 Asser’s
King Alfred: the biographer as
mythmaker. K&L, pp. 44-48,
66-110. First draft of paper #1 due
at beginning of class.
F Feb 17 King
Alfred the Great, philosopher-king. K&L,
pp. 124-27, 163-70. Blair, ch. 6, pp.
350-55. C-H, “The Voyages of Ohthere and
Wulfstan,” pp. 262-68.
F Feb 24 Ælfric
and Wulfstan as preachers and
men of letters. C-H: Ælfric,
Colloquy” and “The Passion of St. Edmund,” pp. 19-21 and 220-33,
“The Sermon of ‘Wolf to the English,” pp. 291-99.
M Feb 27 From Cnut the
Great to William the
Conquerer. Blair, pp. 99-115,
178-93. Swanton, the annal for 1066.
W Mar 1 The Bayeux
Tapestry (slide lecture). Final
draft of paper #1 due at beginning of class.
F Mar 3 “The
Norman yoke.” Blair
ch. 2, pp. 104-15. Swanton, the E version
of the Chronicle for the years 1083, 1085,
Mar 6 REVIEW.
Mar 8 MIDTERM EXAMINATION. Hand in
Mar 10 Film: “The Story of English, part II: The
Mother Tongue.” Blair ch. 6 (pp. 301-49).
March 11-19 SPRING BREAK – YEAH!
But you still have an assignment: read Heaney’s Beowulf over the break. Then
you can study the poem closely part by part during the next three
weeks, and you
can compare other translations as well, e.g. Liuzza’s.
M Mar 20 Approaching Beowulf: A
Christian poet looks back at the Germanic Heroic Age.
Mar 22 Beowulf:
The hero sets out. Lines 194-702.
Mar 24 Beowulf: Man against monster:
the first great fight. Lines 702-1019.
M Mar 27 Beowulf:
The economy of feuds and gifts; the haunted mere. Lines 1020-1441. C-H, “The
Finnesburh Fragment,” pp. 8-9. “The
Fight at Finnsburh.” W Mar 29 Beowulf:
The second great fight and its aftermath: mythic core of the poem. Lines 1279-2199.
Mar 31 Beowulf grown old: the fight
against the dragon. Lines 2200-2711.
F Apr 14 Anglo-Saxon
vernacular spirituality. C-H, “The
Dream of the Rood” (pp. 200-04). Iimages
of the Ruthwell Cross, Ælfric’s
“Sermon on the Sacrifice on Easter Day,” and “Blickling Homily 7” (an
Day sermon) (CR). “The
Dream of the Rood,” the Ruthwell
Cross and other stone sculpture (CR). Recommended:
Witnessed" (ER). Exchange
drafts of paper #2 (optional).
Apr 17 The Exeter Book, III:
Riddles. C-H, “Thirty-One Riddles,” pp. 235-50.
W Apr 19 Gnomic poetry in
Anglo-Saxon. C-H, “The Fortunes of
Men,” pp. 304-06. “Maxims
I & II,” plus the Old Norse
“Sayings of the High One” (CR). Review
the use of the gnomic voice in Beowulf."The
Fortunes of Men," "Maxims
F Apr 21 Runes and their
bk. IV, ch. 22 (the story of
Imma). The Ruthwell Cross, “The Rune
Poem” (CR). the "Rune
Poem" CR). Recommended: Page, "How to Use Runes" (ER).
M Apr 24 Anglo-Saxon
social history: the evidence of
the laws. Extracts from the laws of King Alfred (K&L, pp.
“Laws,” pp. 24-31. Take-home
paper #2 due at the beginning of class.
W Apr 26 Anglo-Saxon
social history: the evidence of
charters and wills. C-H, “Charters,
Tracts and Wills” (pp. 252-66). “Exchange
of Lands” (CR).
F Apr 28 Anglo-Saxon
social history: the evidence of
charms and medical texts. C-H, “Charms
and Remedies” (pp. 268-77). Selections
from Anglo-Saxon Magic (CR). Recommended:
Æcerbot Ritual in Context” (ER). Hand
May 1OPEN DATE W
May 3OPEN DATE F
May 5 READING PERIOD