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British Literature. Introduction. The British Isles. Look at the maps on page 4 & 87 of your text. The Anglo-Saxon Period. 449-1066. Ancient World. isolated rain-drenched and often fogged in green dotted with thatched cottages, quaint stone churches, and mysterious stone ruins.

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British literature

British Literature


The british isles
The British Isles

  • Look at the maps on page 4 & 87 of your text.

Ancient world
Ancient World

  • isolated

  • rain-drenched and often fogged in

  • green

  • dotted with thatched cottages, quaint stone churches, and mysterious stone ruins

British influence on america
British Influence on America

  • Common law

  • Parliamentary Government

  • Literature

  • Language


  • Early inhabitants

  • Tall, blonde warriors

  • Group within group: Brythons (sounds like….)

Celtic religion
Celtic Religion

  • Animism – from Latin word for “spirit”

  • Everything had spirits: rivers, trees, stones, ponds, fire, thunder

  • Spirits had to be constantly satisfied

  • Druids, priests, acted as intermediaries between gods and people

  • Ritual dances, rites: Stonehenge?

Celtic mythology
Celtic Mythology

  • Arthur – legendary Celtic warrior; became embodiment of English values (Sir Thomas Malory, 15th Century, Le Morte D’Arthur)

  • Different from Anglo-Saxon (which came later)

  • Full of strong women

  • Enchanted lands where magic and imagination rule

Video break 1 2
Video break: 1 & 2

  • The Dark Ages

  • Roman Britain

Roman invaders
Roman Invaders

  • 55 B.C. Julius Caesar began invasions and claimed Britain for Rome

  • Claudius settled Britain in earnest about 100 years later

Roman contributions
Roman Contributions

  • Armies to defend Britain against further invasions

  • Network of roads (some still in use)

  • Defensive wall 73 miles long (Hadrian’s Wall)

  • Public baths

  • Brought Christianity and Celtic religion began to vanish

Roman evacuation
Roman Evacuation

  • Trouble at home (Italy)

  • Evacuated Britain, leaving fixtures but no central government

  • Island weak, ripe for invasion

Video break 3
Video break: 3

  • The Anglo-Saxon Invasions of Britain

Anglo saxons sweep ashore
Anglo-Saxons Sweep Ashore

  • 5th Century

  • Angles and Saxons from Germany

  • Jutes from Denmark

  • Attack across the North Sea

  • Drove old Britons out before them

  • “Germanic” Language became dominant in Engla land from the Angles

Anglo saxon invasion
Anglo-Saxon Invasion

  • Celts put up a fight, then retreated to Wales

  • Welsh chieftain: Arthur

The danes invade
The Danes Invade

  • Alfred the Great unified the independent principalities against the invading Danes (Vikings, pirates, from Denmark)

  • Plundered and destroyed a path through the country before settling in northeast and central England

  • Battle continued until 1066 (over 150 years), when William, Duke of Normandy, defeated them all

Video break 4 6
Video break: 4 & 6

  • Stowa

  • Dark Ages: Three Elements that Join

Anglo saxon life
Anglo-Saxon Life

  • NOT barbarians, though often depicted that way

  • Warfare was the order of the day

  • Law and order was the responsibility of the leader

Anglo saxon success
Anglo-Saxon Success

  • Fame and success gained only through LOYALTY to the leader

  • Success measured in gifts from the leader

Anglo saxon life1
Anglo-Saxon Life

  • Dominated by need to protect

  • People lived close to animals in single-family homesteads around common area or a warm, fire-lit chieftan’s hall

  • Wooden stockade fence around all

  • Arrangement brought closeness to leader and followers

  • Rule by consensus

Anglo saxon women
Anglo-Saxon Women

  • Women inherited and held property

  • Retained control of property even when married

  • Husband had to offer marriage gift

  • Woman had personal control of gift

  • Woman became Abbesses

  • Rights ended with Norman conquest

Anglo saxon religion
Anglo-Saxon Religion

  • Religion persisted despite influx of Christianity

  • Dark, fatalistic religion from Germany

  • Like Norse/Scandinavian mythology

  • Odin: god of death, poetry, and magic; called Woden (Woden’s Day: Wednesday)

  • Dragon: significant figure; guardian of the grave, and “death the devourer”

Anglo saxon religion1
Anglo-Saxon Religion

  • More concerned with ethics than mysticism – with the earthly virtues of bravery, loyalty, generosity, and friendship

Video break 7
Video break: 7

  • The Spread of Christianity


  • Irish and Continental missionaries converted Anglo-Saxon kings and the people followed

  • Provided a common faith and a common system of morality

  • Linked England to Europe

Christian monasteries
Christian Monasteries

  • Centers of learning

  • Culturally and spiritually coexisted with the heroic ideals and traditions of the Anglo-Saxon religion

  • Preserved some of the older traditions by recorded works of popular literature


  • Recorded works of oral tradition in the language of the people: Old English

  • Recorded principal works in Latin, the language of the Church

  • Copied manuscripts by hand in scriptorium (a covered walkway); oiled paper or glass kept out some weather


  • Latin remained the language of ‘serious’ study

  • King Alfred’s Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a history of England, helped English gain respect as a language of culture

Bards entertainers historians
Bards: Entertainers/Historians

  • Scops

  • Skilled storytellers

  • Equal in stature to warriors; creating poetry just as important as hunting, fishing, farming, or loving

  • Strummed harp

  • Told stories of heros

  • Fame in poetry: defense against death