Old English

Old English

 

Cool replica of an Anglo-Saxon helmet buried with a ship!

Sutton Hoo Helmet

  

 Overview                     

 Old English, for most of us (me included!) evokes images straight out of Tolkein’s version of Meduseld, the mead-hall of Rohan: helmeted warriors, sturdy beams intricate with carving, bright swords and polished helmets.  The gruff and guttural English of the Anglo-Saxons is strange and foreign to modern ears, but it has a rugged and “muscular” sound that carries throughout the poetry of the age.  Surprisingly delicate and witty in kennings, wordplay, and riddles, Anglo-Saxon literature and language is a delight to explore.                      

 Background Reading          

   

 NOTE: Outline or take textual notes on all textbook information that you are asked to read.  I will give occasional open-note quizzes, so taking notes will definitely help your understanding.      

  •  Read and annotate pp. 16-27 in your textbook, The Language of Literature for background information.
  •  Read pp. 28-31, The Language of Literature for information about Beowulf.
  • Read p. 63, “The Beowulf Poet,” in The Language of Literature.
  • Read p. 61-62 about modern-day scop Benjamin Bagby, whose video can be found here.
  • You will need to memorize the locations of several major countries in western Europe relevant to English history and literature.  I will periodically test students by giving them a blackline map similar to this one and asking them to identify specific countries or geographical features. 
  •  Countries and geographical features to remember:
  1. The countries of the British isles: Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England  (Mnemonic trick: WISE)
  2. The Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Finland (Mnemonic trick: No Smelly Fish).  Please also include Denmark and Iceland.
  3.  The countries especially important in the classical period, specifically Greece, Rome, and Turkey
  4. England’s frequent rivals, France, Spain (and Portugal), the Netherlands, and Germany
  5. Important bodies of water: the English channel, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the North Sea, the river Thames, the river Seine
  6. Capitals of England, Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Ireland

  Anglo-Saxon Literature Readings           

NOTE: Readings are mandatory unless specifically marked “Optional.”  Optional readings are just that — optional.  They are there for your convenience and to help expand your understanding of the course material.  If you’re having a hard time understanding something, the optional materials can often be very helpful to you.  If you have suggestions for optional material you would like to see on this page, please email me at burkerv@interact.ccsd.net with your suggestions.    

See these helpful Beowulf discussion questions  and these Beowulf questions, part II and part III (optional) to help you with your reading!

  Please read all Beowulf selections on pp. 32-60, The Language of Literature.

   

 Handouts      Note: Handouts are usually given in class to support in-class work.  Please do not do these assignments unless you are specifically asked to do so.  They are put here for your convenience and reference.   

Written Assignments 

 NOTE: The following are possible writing assignments for this unit.  Any writing assignment will be given and explained in class.  In other words, please do not do these assignments unless you’re specifically asked to do so.  They are put here for your convenience and reference.    

  1. Anglo-Saxon Quote Analysis  This shorter assignment, including options for regular- and honors-level students, prepares students for literary analysis essays by having them choose quotations from Beowulf, write context, and analyze their importance.
  2. Anglo-Saxon Paper – This 3-4 page paper assignment, including options for regular- and honors-level students, asks writers to address issues of characterization, motif, and symbolism in Beowulf and/or “The Ruin.”

   

Resources for the Media-Minded             

NOTE: Resources are mandatory unless specifically marked “Optional.”  Optional resources, like the optional readings, are just that — optional.  They are there for your convenience and to help expand your understanding of the course material.  If you’re having a hard time understanding something, the optional materials can often be very helpful to you.  If you have suggestions for optional material you would like to see on this page, please email me at burkerv@interact.ccsd.net with your suggestions.     

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