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British Literature. Unit 1 The Anglo-Saxons 449-1066. Celtic Britain . Britain first mentioned by ancient Greeks Legendary: remote and mysterious Island originally occupied by Celtic Britons Conquered by the Romans in the first c entury

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british literature

British Literature

Unit 1

The Anglo-Saxons 449-1066

celtic britain
Celtic Britain
  • Britain first mentioned by ancient Greeks
  • Legendary: remote and mysterious
  • Island originally occupied by Celtic Britons
  • Conquered by the Romans in the first century
  • Around 410, Romans left the Celtic people to find their own means of defense
rise of the anglo saxons
Rise of the Anglo-Saxons
  • In 449, the Jutes (from the Jutland in Denmark) were the first of the Germanic invaders
  • In600-850, the Angles and Saxons, wealthy independent lords and kings, invaded as well
fall of the celtic
Fall of the Celtic
  • But the Celtics did not retreat without a fight
  • Celtics experienced brief military success under leadership of King Arthur, Medieval legend
  • Celtic British culture collapsed by 600- Celts driven into Wales
tribes and language
Tribes and Language
  • These Germanic tribes brought Old English, Anglo-Saxon
  • Together they created Anglo- Saxon England
  • Old English is a branch of West German, related to modern German and Dutch
  • Modern English evolved from the language of Germanic Invaders
fall of anglo saxons
Fall of Anglo-Saxons
  • 871-899

Viking Norsemen (“Danes”) began to attack and were defeated

  • In 1066, the Normans invaded from across the English Channel instituted their own culture, bringing an end to the Anglo-Saxons
anglo saxon culture
Anglo-Saxon Culture
  • Well developed society organized around the family, the clan, the tribe, and the kingdom
  • 2 classes: The eorls, ruling class

The ceorls, bondsmen, ancestors were former slaves

  • King relied on witan, wise men
Anglo-Saxon Social Life
  • Center of social life was the mead hall
  • Professional singers, scops, entertained

served as poets and chroniclers

kept stories alive

  • Until end of 6th century, worshipped pagan gods---associated with Norse mythology now
Rise of Christianity
  • At first, Christianity had little impact
  • Until Saint Augustine, a famous missionary, who came in 597, became the first Archbishop of Canterbury
  • Within 2 generations, Christianity spread throughout England
  • Missionaries brought education and culture
  • Christianity influenced literature, as monks recorded poetry that had been oral
  • Yet Anglo-Saxons still clung to pagan superstitions and customs
anglo saxon values
Anglo-Saxon Values
  • Men of courage were admired
  • Loyalty to the leader & the tribe were essential
  • Persons of rank were respected
  • The ruler was expected to be generous
  • Everyone was aware life was transitory
  • Impersonal fate ,“wyrd”, ruled life
anglo saxon literature
Anglo Saxon Literature
  • Anglo-Saxons brought literary traditions from the continent
  • Brought oral literature steeped in pagan beliefs
  • Focused on the brave and heroic deeds of warriors possessing valued attributes
  • Only surviving full length epic in Old English (from this tradition) is Beowulf
anglo saxon poetry
Anglo Saxon Poetry
  • The lyric and the riddle
  • The lyric is personal and emotional
  • The riddle describes person or object
  • Both reveal
    • love of language
    • terror of northern winter
    • awareness of death
    • reverence & fear of the sea