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eowulf and Old English Literature. Beowulf is the Oldest Surviving Northern European Epic . Gloomy. Fierce. Stalwart. “Nothing stirred the poet’s imagination more than a sword or a ship.”. Mostly anonymous Exceptions: Caedmon & Cynewulf. Old English Poetry. Oral Tradition.

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slide1

eowulf and Old English Literature

Beowulf is the Oldest Surviving Northern European Epic

slide2

Gloomy

Fierce

Stalwart

“Nothing stirred the poet’s imagination more than a sword or a ship.”

slide3

Mostly anonymous

  • Exceptions: Caedmon & Cynewulf

Old English Poetry

  • Oral Tradition
  • Scops and Gleemen: traveling poets/

minstrels

Two types of Poetry:

1. Heroic Epics

Definition: a long, narrative poem about the exploits of a hero who embodies the values of the culture

Example:Beowulf

2. Elegiac lyrics

Definition: a poem that reflects the poet’s thoughts & feelings, and that laments the loss of something

Example: “The Seafarer”

slide4

Characteristics of Anglo-Saxon Poetry

Alliterative

Unrhymed

Strong Beat

Unique Devices

slide5

Unique Devices

Caesura

A pause in the middle of a line of poetry

Kenning

A compound noun that is colorful & descriptive

“whale road” = the sea

COLE WAS THE KING; HE WAS KEEN AND MERRY;

MIRTHFUL HE WAS; WITH MINSTRELS IN MEAD

HALL.

HE CALLED FOR HIS CUP; HE CALLED FOR HIS PIPE.

HIS FIDDLERS WERE THREE, AND FINE WAS THEIR

TRILLING.

slide6

The Mystery, Puzzles, & Contradictions of

Beowulf

Only one manuscript survives: the Cotton Manuscript

The Mystery

Almost destroyed by fire

Discovered in the 16th century but not published until 1815

slide7

A Puzzle:

Beowulf is the definitive English epic and the beginning of English literature,

BUT

The hero is a Geat (Yea-ot) or Swede, and none of the action takes place in England.

Why?

slide8

In 449 AD Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons & Jutes) invaded the British Isles; they brought this story with them.

AND

Beowulf embodies Anglo-Saxon values and celebrates the essence of a warrior society.

  • Bravery
  • Loyalty
  • Devotion
  • to the
  • community

The challenges of Existence

Weapons used

Festive Celebrations

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It is difficult to convey just howchallenging the lives of the earliest Anglo-Saxons were. Every day was abattle to survive. The Anglo-Saxonslived in hutsanddressed in animal skinsto protect themselves against themiserable, bone-chilling dampnessof the weather. They eked out an existence by farming the land, hunting, and venturing forth ondangerous, turbulent seas to fish. When

they weren't scraping together a skimpy existence, they werefightingneighboring tribes and clans. Thesetough conditionscreated strong ties within tribes and

encouraged intense loyalty to clan leaders. The

environment also contributed to the high esteem in which the inhabitants held individualbravery, a quality they honored above all others.

slide11

A Contradiction:

Beowulf also shows the influence of Christian culture.

Beowulf represents a violent warrior culture;

Belief in a higher power who rewards virtue, forgiveness, honesty

Old Testament Elements (Ex.: Cain)

Trolls, monsters, & elves from Norse mythology

Belief in Wyrd

slide13

700 AD

597 AD Christian Conversion

800 AD

449 AD

900 AD

300 AD

1000 AD

Viking Invasions

  • Christian monks write down the spoken epic.
  • editor not` author
  • well-read
  • conscious role of poet

Oral Tradition: Beowulf-type stories are told. “The BearStory”

Beowulf sung by scops

Anglo-Saxon Invasion

slide16

A King and Country in Trouble

Beowulf’s Home

Hrothgar, King of the Danes

slide17

The Monster: A Descendant of Cain

Versus

The Young Hero from Geatland

slide19

The epic continues until Beowulf is an old king. . .

. . .and he dies in his last battle with a dragon