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OLD ENGLISH
LITERATURE
SEMESTER 1
MODULE 1
EN1331 COMPLEMENTARY COURSE
HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE 1
SREEKUMAR V. R.
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
NSS COLLEGE NILAMEL
 Records of Old English literature available in four
groups of manuscripts
Manucripts collected by Sir Robert Cotton
Exceter Book given to Exceter Cathedral by
Bishop Leofrick
Vercelli Book found at Vercelli
Manuscripts in the Bodleian library at Oxford
CHARACTERISTICS
 Unwritten literature
 Songs and legends- heroic in character
 Sung by wandering minstrels to the
accompaniment of a harp
 Helplessness of humans before the power
of fate
 Old stories written down with the
introduction of Christianity
BEOWULF
 Arouse as an oral saga made up of pagan songs
 Later written down and christianised by monks
 Praises God for his gifts to men
 More than three thousand lines
 Oldest surviving epic of teutonic people
 Scandinavian in setting
 Lacks Scandinavian words and phrases
 Picture of primitive social life
CHARACTERISTICS
BEOWULF- PLOT
Beowulf ,mighty warrior of royal Swedish blood,
comes to the help of Danish king- Hrothgar
He meets the dreadful monster-Grendel and wounds
him to death
Proceeds to kill Grendel’s mother who comes to
avenge her son’s death
Survives a reign of fifty years full of valorous deeds
Meets a fiery dragon and kills it
But Beowulf is infected by its venomous poison
Ultimately succumbs to death
Ends with his funeral rites
ANGLO-SAXON POETRY
 Widsith and Complaint of Doer; ( 2 early
anonymous poems)
 Tells the wanderings of minstrels and sings of war
 Complaint of Doer may be considered the first
English lyric
 The Battle of Finnsburg (saga of Finn)
 Charms: curious songs sung by Teutonic peasants
INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY
 Anglo-Saxon literature preserved by clerks who
lived from 7th to 11th centuries
 Essentially Christian literature
 Caedmon (first English poet) and Bede ( first
English historian) received patronage of church
 Prevalence of pagan feelings here and there
 Missionaries realised that it is not possible to
destroy old stories
 Attempted telling new Biblical stories in the old
way
CAEDMON
 First native English poet
 Uneducated; inmate of St. Hilda’s monastery
 Divine inspiration-visit by an angel
 Caedmon’s Paraphrase (rendering of Old and New
Testament stories into English verse
 Other poems inspired by Genesis, Exodus and
Daniel
 Founded a new school of religious poetry
CYNEWULF
 Northumbrian (period: 8th century)
 Sudden spiritual transformation of an irresponsible
youth
 Poems: The Christ, Elene, Judith, The Dream of the
Rood, The Wife’s Complaint, The Husband’s
Message, The Wanderer
 The Christ ( expression of poet’s view of life)
 The Dream of the Rood {Rood(cross) describes the
unwilling part it played in crucifixion}
 Judith: narrative poem
CLASSIFICATION OF POETRY
3 types of Religious poems
 Scriptural poems, Lives of Saints, Miscellaneous
devotional work
 Scriptural poems: Caedmon’s Genesis , Exodus;
Cynewulf’s The Christ
 Lives of Saints: Andreas, Elene, Guthlac, Juliana
 Miscellaneous devotional work: The Dream of the
Rood, The Phoenix
Secular Poems
The Ruin, The Wanderer, The Wife’s Complaint, The
Husband’s Message
CHARACTERISTICS OF OLD ENGLISH POETRY
 Resemblance with Hebrew poetry- use of
metaphorical phrases
 Accent and alliteration
 Absence of rhyme; no definite number of syllables
 Oral tradition, minstrels free to modify the
movement of verse
 Presence of compound words
ANGLO-SAXON PROSE
 Inferior in quality to poetry
 Mostly for educational purpose
 Aldhelm: English scholar and author of the Latin
work- “Praises of Virginity”
Venerable Bede
 Greatest figure in Anglo-Saxon prose
 Ecclesiastical History of English Race; most
prominent of Bede’s works
 The Lives of Saints, The Martyrs of Church (works
in Latin)
 Works exhibit his classical scholarship
King Alfred
 Translated the following important works to native English
Bede’s Eccleciastical History
Bolethius’s Consolations of Philosophy
Orosius’s Ancient History
Pope Gregory’s Pastoral Care
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
 under patronage of Alfred
 Record of history of the people
 Three main portions: Winchester Annals, Worcester
Annals and Peterborough Annals
Aelfric
 Works of monastric reforms
 Grammarian and teacher
 Homilies (Anglo-Saxon prose work)
 Latin Grammar (work on revival of Latin studies)
Conclusion
 Decline of literary impulses by 10th century
 Revival by Norman invasion
REFERENCES
 Radhakumari K, A concise History of English
Literature and Language, Delhi: Primus Books,2013
 Ashok, Padmaja, The Social History of England,
Chennai: Orient Blackswan, 2011
THANK YOU

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OLD ENGLISH LITERATURE

  • 1. OLD ENGLISH LITERATURE SEMESTER 1 MODULE 1 EN1331 COMPLEMENTARY COURSE HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE 1 SREEKUMAR V. R. ASSISTANT PROFESSOR DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH NSS COLLEGE NILAMEL
  • 2.  Records of Old English literature available in four groups of manuscripts Manucripts collected by Sir Robert Cotton Exceter Book given to Exceter Cathedral by Bishop Leofrick Vercelli Book found at Vercelli Manuscripts in the Bodleian library at Oxford
  • 3. CHARACTERISTICS  Unwritten literature  Songs and legends- heroic in character  Sung by wandering minstrels to the accompaniment of a harp  Helplessness of humans before the power of fate  Old stories written down with the introduction of Christianity
  • 5.  Arouse as an oral saga made up of pagan songs  Later written down and christianised by monks  Praises God for his gifts to men  More than three thousand lines  Oldest surviving epic of teutonic people  Scandinavian in setting  Lacks Scandinavian words and phrases  Picture of primitive social life CHARACTERISTICS
  • 6. BEOWULF- PLOT Beowulf ,mighty warrior of royal Swedish blood, comes to the help of Danish king- Hrothgar He meets the dreadful monster-Grendel and wounds him to death Proceeds to kill Grendel’s mother who comes to avenge her son’s death Survives a reign of fifty years full of valorous deeds Meets a fiery dragon and kills it But Beowulf is infected by its venomous poison Ultimately succumbs to death Ends with his funeral rites
  • 7. ANGLO-SAXON POETRY  Widsith and Complaint of Doer; ( 2 early anonymous poems)  Tells the wanderings of minstrels and sings of war  Complaint of Doer may be considered the first English lyric  The Battle of Finnsburg (saga of Finn)  Charms: curious songs sung by Teutonic peasants
  • 8. INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY  Anglo-Saxon literature preserved by clerks who lived from 7th to 11th centuries  Essentially Christian literature  Caedmon (first English poet) and Bede ( first English historian) received patronage of church  Prevalence of pagan feelings here and there  Missionaries realised that it is not possible to destroy old stories  Attempted telling new Biblical stories in the old way
  • 9. CAEDMON  First native English poet  Uneducated; inmate of St. Hilda’s monastery  Divine inspiration-visit by an angel  Caedmon’s Paraphrase (rendering of Old and New Testament stories into English verse  Other poems inspired by Genesis, Exodus and Daniel  Founded a new school of religious poetry
  • 10. CYNEWULF  Northumbrian (period: 8th century)  Sudden spiritual transformation of an irresponsible youth  Poems: The Christ, Elene, Judith, The Dream of the Rood, The Wife’s Complaint, The Husband’s Message, The Wanderer  The Christ ( expression of poet’s view of life)  The Dream of the Rood {Rood(cross) describes the unwilling part it played in crucifixion}  Judith: narrative poem
  • 11. CLASSIFICATION OF POETRY 3 types of Religious poems  Scriptural poems, Lives of Saints, Miscellaneous devotional work  Scriptural poems: Caedmon’s Genesis , Exodus; Cynewulf’s The Christ  Lives of Saints: Andreas, Elene, Guthlac, Juliana  Miscellaneous devotional work: The Dream of the Rood, The Phoenix Secular Poems The Ruin, The Wanderer, The Wife’s Complaint, The Husband’s Message
  • 12. CHARACTERISTICS OF OLD ENGLISH POETRY  Resemblance with Hebrew poetry- use of metaphorical phrases  Accent and alliteration  Absence of rhyme; no definite number of syllables  Oral tradition, minstrels free to modify the movement of verse  Presence of compound words
  • 13. ANGLO-SAXON PROSE  Inferior in quality to poetry  Mostly for educational purpose  Aldhelm: English scholar and author of the Latin work- “Praises of Virginity” Venerable Bede  Greatest figure in Anglo-Saxon prose  Ecclesiastical History of English Race; most prominent of Bede’s works  The Lives of Saints, The Martyrs of Church (works in Latin)  Works exhibit his classical scholarship
  • 14. King Alfred  Translated the following important works to native English Bede’s Eccleciastical History Bolethius’s Consolations of Philosophy Orosius’s Ancient History Pope Gregory’s Pastoral Care Anglo-Saxon Chronicle  under patronage of Alfred  Record of history of the people  Three main portions: Winchester Annals, Worcester Annals and Peterborough Annals
  • 15. Aelfric  Works of monastric reforms  Grammarian and teacher  Homilies (Anglo-Saxon prose work)  Latin Grammar (work on revival of Latin studies) Conclusion  Decline of literary impulses by 10th century  Revival by Norman invasion
  • 16. REFERENCES  Radhakumari K, A concise History of English Literature and Language, Delhi: Primus Books,2013  Ashok, Padmaja, The Social History of England, Chennai: Orient Blackswan, 2011