English and Film Studies

ENGL 325 A1: Medieval Literature & Culture: Medieval Texts

J. Considine

The first people who spoke our language lived many centuries ago, and thousands of miles away. They were the Anglo-Saxons, who settled in what is now England in the fifth century, and whose culture was shattered by a foreign invasion in the eleventh. This course is an opportunity to study a wide variety of their writings in modern English translation. We will read heroic poetry such as The Battle of Maldon; laws and chronicles; elegies such as The Seafarer; narratives of exploration; texts from the Christian experience of the Anglo-Saxons; riddles and magical spells. We will read the epic Beowulf in its Anglo-Saxon context (prior knowledge of the poem is welcome but not at all necessary). The texts are immensely rewarding for their own sake, and reading them will also lead us towards an understanding of the people who wrote, read, spoke, and heard them. So, we will support our readings by learning a little about their background: as occupiers of the remains of a Roman province; as opponents of the Celtic peoples who may have been led by the historical King Arthur; as opponents and subjects of the Vikings; as the creators of a sophisticated high culture with connections across Europe and beyond. We will bring Anglo-Saxon jewellery, sculpture, weapons, and manuscripts together with our readings. Students interested in the Old English language may also wish to consider taking Engl 409 (B1) “The Old English Language” in Winter 2020 but although Engl 325 (A1) and Engl 409 (B1) fit together well, they are separate courses, and you are very welcome to take one without the other.

Texts:

Kevin Crossley-Holland, The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology (Oxford, 2009).

John Blair, The Anglo-Saxon Age: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2000).