Old English I
Course Convenor: Prof. Richard North
The aim of this course is to provide students with sufficient knowledge of Old English language and the background to the period to enable them to analyse the texts in terms of both their literary value and their social and cultural context. The long-term objective of this course is to produce graduates with a knowledge of some of the best Old English literature, sufficient to enable further study. The course assumes some prior acquaintance with Old English (such as the first-year Old English course).
The earliest English literature was written in Anglo-Saxon England from c.650 to the reign of King Alfred the Great (871-99). Between faction-fighting at home and Viking invasions from abroad, an evolution took place in these centuries in which many warring aristocracies from Northumbria to Kent were slowly reduced to a smaller number of kingdoms with Wessex at their head. This course is an opportunity to study a rich variety of Old English poetry and prose in which the tribal warfare, fierce Christianity and tangled politics of this era are reflected in traditional and contemporary tales of mortal combat, spiritual ecstasy and the love of dangerous men and women. Poems, including The Wanderer and The Seafarer, Deor and about two-thirds of Beowulf, are thus read alongside Bede's account of Cædmon, the earliest named poet in the English language, extracts from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (including ‘Cynewulf and Cyneheard') and some texts from the early reign of Alfred. The aim of this course is to provide students with sufficient knowledge of Old English language and the background to the period to enable them to analyse the texts in terms of both their literary value and their social and cultural context.
Teaching consists of twice-weekly one-hour seminars. The course is examined by a three-hour written paper containing translation, commentary and essay questions (NB: it is not possible to be examined by Course Essay for this course).