Anglo-Saxon Lit In the beginning was the word… Bede • Bede—one of the greatest scholars of his age • Works were on theology, science, and rhetoric • *Spread of Christianity from An Ecclesiastical History of the English People/ The Dream of the Rood • What gift was given to Caedmon? • What does the gift prove? • Based on the selection, what can the reader infer was important in this time period? “The Dream of the Rood” • What poetic device is used in the “The Dream of the Rood?” • What biblical story is told in the poem? • How is Christ described? Why? • What was the sin of the tree? • The message in the poem? The Elegy What is it? Elegy • Any poem that laments/grieves the loss or passing of beloved persons, places, or things Characteristics/Conventions • Invokes a muse • Contains a poetic speaker • Raises questions about justice, fate, or providence • The poet digresses about the conditions of his time or is own situation • Digression allows the speaker to move beyond his original emotion or thinking to a higher level of understanding • The conclusion provides consolation Old English Laments • A formal expression of sorrow or mourning in verse or song— • An elegy or dirge The Exeter Book • Contains “The Wanderer,” “The Wife’s Lament,” “The Seafarer,” and other old English poetry (123 leaves) • Written by a single scribe b/t 950s-990s Questions: “The Wanderer” • Who is the “Wanderer”? (and) What has likely lead him to where he is in the poem? • Where is the poem set? • What is “the Wanderer” lamenting? • Why does the Wanderer lament the loss of his “gold-friend so much? What did that person represent? • What is the symbolic significance of the “mead-hall” in this poem? • What is the Wanderer seeking? More Questions • What role does memory play in the poem? • The poem is structured with at least three divisions. What and where are they? • What is the poem’s central message? How does it relate specifically to its time, and how is the message timeless? • Where do we see “ubi sunt”? • In what sense do the voice of the framing narrative and the voice of the Wanderer seem to be at odds? The Wife’s Lament • What is unique about this passage? • What role did the wife probably play before the context of the passage? • Why is the wife in the situation she is in? Where is her husband? • What misfortunes does the wife suffer? • Is her situation meant to be taken literally or figuratively? Does she live in an earth cave at the bottom of a tree? • Why can we infer that “The Wife’s Lament” is older than “The Wanderer”? Resources • Readings from Beowulf • Old English Pronunciations • Terms “Beowulf” The World of Beowulf • The world of “Beowulf” was old even when it was written. • The heroic poem was set (ca. 520) at least two or three centuries before it was thought to be written. • Beowulf is thought to be the oldest surviving English epic poem. • The setting was the harsh world of the English’s Germanic forefathers. • And even though the poem was written in English, it was set in Scandinavia, and its characters and heroes are Danes and Geats—two Scandinavian tribes • The world of “Beowulf” is pagan • The most important relationship in Germanic society (Anglo-Saxon) is that between the thane (warrior) and his lord (king) • The relationship between kinsmen is important • Often we see the conflict of the writer evident in the characters’ seemingly Christian and un-Christian behavior. • The Christian mode is combined with the Heroic mode to create poetry ripe with contradictions. Beowulf Questions • In Beowulf, where do we see evidence of contradictions between heroic Anglo-Saxon Society and Christianity? • What role does the mead hall play in Anglo-Saxon culture and in Beowulf? • How does Beowulf reinforce values upheld by Anglo Saxons? • How does one honor one who has been killed? More questions • How are men rewarded for their valor, bravery, and loyalty? • How is Beowulf rewarded? • How does Grendel’s mother’s actions keep in line with Anglo-Saxon tradition? • How are women presented in Beowulf? • Is Beowulf in any way elegiac? • What is telling about the end of Beowulf? • Compare and contrast Beowulf and Hrothgar as kings? • Discuss the epic attributes of Beowulf. At the end of Beowulf, the protagonist has one last battle against an antagonistic force, why might it have been more beneficial to his people for someone else to take up the cause against the dragon? More questions • Discuss the purpose of the song that appears from lines 1070-1157. • Discuss the contradictions in the first part of the poem. • Discuss examples of synecdoche and metonymy. • What makes Beowulf both a likable hero an unlikable at the same time? The Battle of Maldon Questions • How is Beowulf both an epic and an elegy? What is being grieved? • In what ways does “The Wanderer” fit the mold for an elegy? • In what ways does “The Wife’s Lament” fit the mold for an elegy?