Literature is characterized by beauty of expression and form and by
university of intellectual and emotional appeal. Literature shows us
not only what a society is like in a certain age, but also what
individual feel about it, what they hope from it, and how they can
change it or escape from it.
Literature gives readers an insight into the tradition, custom, beliefs,
attitudes, folklore, values of the age in which it is written.
Prof. MSc. Maura Xavier Garcia
How to study Literature?
a. analytical approach
The elements of fiction include plot, character, setting, point of view,
theme, symbol, allegory, style, and tone.
What is the story, the poem, the play, or the essay about?
c. historical approach
It aims at illustrating the historical development of literature. All the
Literature exists in time and as such bears the unmistakable imprint of
the period and culture in which it is written.
mythic and archetypal criticism
formalist /new criticism structuralism
1): pagan: oral sagas: the Song of Beowulf
2): Christian: copied by the monk. The
influence of the Christianity upon language
and culture. Two ecclesiastic poets:
Caedmon and Cynewulf
3. the Song of Beowulf----England’s
creation time: written in 10-th century
plot and theme: fight with Grendel fight with
Grendel’s mother fight with firedrake death
–Lived in tribal groups with a high class of
–Kings emerged as society developed.
•Spoke Old English.
•This was the language that Beowulf was written in.
•Became Christian but still valued heroic ideals
and traditional heroes.
•Their culture valued human contact, family,
virtue, and a good story.
•They feared humiliation and loneliness in their
lives. In addition, the Anglo-Saxons desired
richness, power, and appreciated heroic
actions of warriors.
•787CE Viking raids begin
•871-899CE saxon King Alfred the Great becomes
King of England.
–Established education systems, rebuilt
–Contributed with artfacts
–Fought Danes and forced them from Wessex.
–Unified Anglo-Saxons under one king to resist
the Viking invasions.
–Danes ruled in the North, Anglo-Saxons in the
the Anglo-Saxon period (4491066)
Three conquests: Roman conquest in 43 AD;
Anglo-Saxon conquest in 449;
Norman conquest in 1066 43 AD,
Roman conquered Britain ,making the latter a
Roman Empire; the withdrawal of Roman troops
,the Teutonic (Germanic people)
tribes, esp., the Anglos conquered the island and
Angle-land, then England, their language is
Beowulf towers above all other
Anglo-Saxon literature, not only
because it is a powerful poem
about people’s hero written in
true epic style, but also because
it tells in artistic form the tale in a
leisurely way, full of elaborations
in legendary details, and the
verse rises at places to heights of
The significance of Beowulf:
This glorious epic presents us a vivid
picture of the life of Anglo-Saxon
people and highly praises the brave
and courageous spirit of the fighting
against the elemental forces.
The epic reflects the situations the
epoch of pagan tribalism and of the
era of the Christianized feudal
The epic gives the vivid portrayal of a
• Beowulf: main character, a hero featuring all the qualities
of an epic hero. He has superhuman strength and is
fearless and brave in battle. (Geats)
• Hrothgar: the king of the village that Beowulf saves
from Grendel. (Danes)
• Grendel: a monster terrorizing Hrothgar’s village.
• Grendel’s mother: a monster set out to avenge her
Plot (movie here)
Beowulf travels to Hrothgar’s village to save them from
Grendel, a terrifying monster eating their warriors.
An epic battle ensures Beowulf is the winner.
Of course, Grendel’s mother comes seeking
vengeance for her son’s death. Again, Beowulf is
called upon to save them all, and he fights heroically
and defeats the evil monster.
After being vastly rewarded and refusing an offer from
Hrothgar to be his heir, Beowulf makes the long trek
back to his homeland where he becomes a mighty and
generous king for many years.
He fights a massive dragon who is threatening his
Anglo-Saxon literature began as an oral tradition.
Stories, poems, and songs were all told aloud and
passed from generation to generation orally through
minstrels (also called scops).
Poems traditionally had a strong beat, alliteration,
and no rhyme.
Caesura: “a cutting.” A break in a line of poetry,
used in Old English to depict a half line. We use a
comma for a modern effect.
i.e. Da com of moreunder mistheleopum
―Out from the marsh, from the foot of the hills.‖
Kenning: derived from the Norse word ―kenna‖
which means ―to know, to recognize.‖ It is a
compact metaphor that functions as a name.
i.e. helmberend: ―Helm bearer‖ or ―warrior‖
Characteristics of ―Beowulf‖
a. the mixture of pagan elements
with Christian coloring. The most
outstanding example is the frequent
reference in the epic to ―Wyrd‖
(fate) as the decisive factor in
human affaires, while on other
occasions “God” or “Lord” is also
mentioned as the omniscient and
Pagan vs. Christianity in Beowulf
Strength of the
God is mentioned by
two of the main
characters in the
poem: Beowulf and
Grendel as Lucifer
Both are outcasts
Perform a task for
Grendel is described
as a son or
descendant of Cain,
a clear Biblical
Characteristics of ―Beowulf‖
b. the frequent use of metaphors and understatements.
“Ring giver” is used for king,
“Swan road”, “whale-path” or
“seal bath” for the sea,
“wave-traveler” or “sea-wood”
or “spear-fighter” for soldier.
Life would have ended
[...] under wide earth
Would have died
Lake, pond, swamp
Characteristics of ―Beowulf‖
is written in alliterative verse. Its
rhythm depends upon accent and
alliteration. That is, the beginning of two or
more words in the same line with the same
sound or letter.
The lines are made up of two short halves,
separated by a pause. No rhyme is used;
but a musical effect is produced by giving
each half line two strongly accented
syllables. Each full line, therefore, has four
accents, three of which usually begin with
• Most famous of early Germanic poems
• Written anywhere between 400-1000, but most
likely after the 500s. Period of the barbarian
author is unknown, but likely to be
Christian. It is likely that a few different authors
elaborated on the tale.
• Takes place in Sweden, Denmark, and
– The Norse were at this time attacking
The events described in the poem
take place in the late 5th century, after
the Anglo-Saxons had begun migration
and settlement in England, and before
the beginning of the 7th century, a time
when the Saxons were either newly arrived or
in close contact with their fellow Germanic
kinsmen in Scandinavia and Northern
useless to men as of yore it was.
Then about that barrow the battle-keen rode,
atheling-born, a band of twelve,
lament to make, to mourn their king,
chant their dirge, and their chieftain honor.
They praised his earlship, his acts of prowess
worthily witnessed: and well it is
that men their master-friend mightily laud,
heartily love, when hence he goes
from life in the body forlorn away.
Funeral pyre lit and Beowulf burned.
[Question: why is this old woman placed here in
the book? Is this a woman's comment on all the
men's actions and male dominated society that
creates such continual misery with their warrior
OLD WOMAN predicts that the Geats will be
overrun. She seems to know 'what goes round
comes around' and 'they'll get theirs.' They build
the tower and twelve Geats ride around the tower
praising Beowulf, best of kings.
• Beowulf is the most well-known Anglo-Saxon
poem, and is a form of poetry called the epic.
• Such other examples are Homer’s The Iliad
and The Odessey.
• Long narrative that celebrates a
hero’s long journeys and heroic
• J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Ring series and
George Lucas’ Stars Wars could be called
• Characteristics include a noble hero whose
character traits reflect their society’s ideals.
The hero performs brave acts and appears
The epic poem Beowulf strengthens the Heroic Code.
This code was derived from the Anglo-Saxons’
Germanic roots, and called for strength, courage, and
loyalty in warriors. It also required kings to be
hospitable, generous, and have great political skills.
This code was a basis for Anglo-Saxon honor.
• Universal themes of epic poetry
• Good vs. evil
• Beowulf vs. Grendel
• Courage and honor
• Beowulf is fearless and brave while fighting the monsters.
• Gods or semi-divine creatures
• Grendel, Grendel’s mother, the dragon
• Tale involves the fate of an entire race
Beowulf is an example of Medieval Anglo-Saxon poetry which was
written by monks c1100. Beowulf describes the adventures of a great
Scandinavian warrior of the sixth century. The poem of Beowulf is
distinguished by its heavy use of alliteration which was used instead of
the modern rhyme. There are therefore many examples of alliteration in
Beowulf, often three examples in every line. Like a rhyme, alliteration
makes a poem easy to remember. Examples from Beowulf are
Cunningly creeping, a spectral
Hot-hearted Beowulf was bent
He had often haunted Hrothgar's
•1066CE Norman Conquest by
William the Conqueror.
–From Norman French.
–Defeated Danes and Anglo-Saxons.
–Officially ended Anglo-Saxon era and
brought about the beginning of the
cru·sade (kr-sd) n. 1. often Crusade Any of the military expeditions undertaken by
European Christians in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries to recover the Holy Land from
2. A holy war undertaken with papal sanction.
3. A vigorous concerted movement for a cause or against an abuse. See Synonyms at
intr.v. cru·sad·ed, cru·sad·ing, cru·sades To engage in a crusade.
the Anglo-Norman period (1066—
historical background Norman
Conquest of Anglo-Saxon
England, under William, Duke of
Normandy after the battle of
Hastings in 1066, accelerated
the development of feudalism in
England. The middle ages: the
dark age (449-16-th century)
Literature - romance
a. Geoffrey’s history: a source book
b. the work of the French Writers:
c. Riming/rhythmic chronicles:
history in doggerel verse (cordel)
d. metrical romances, or tales in
Geoffrey Chaucer (1340—1400)
1.his life born in a wine
merchant family, page to
ElizabethCountess of Ulster,
wife of Edward III's third son
he had broad and intimate
acquaintance with persons
high and low in all walks of life
and knew well the whole
His literary career
French period (1360-1372) in
French ― Romance of the
b. Italian period
―the legend of Good
Chaucer’s contributions to
English Literature and Language
a. a master of realism
b.founder of English literary
c.Chaucer’s English: London dialect
d.Father of English poetry : heroic
couplet (The heroic couplet is an iambic
pentameter heaving the lines rhyming in
It is one of the most famous works
in all literature. It begins with a
general prologue that explains the
occasion for the narration of the
tales and gives a description of
the pilgrims who narrate the
tales, and then follow the twentyfour tales that make up the bulk of
the book, plus the separate
prologues and the ―links that
accompany some of‖ the tales.
The Reeve (first specialist in state management)
The Man of Law
The Wife of Bath
The Summoner(give notes to court
The Franklin(not in feudal servitude)
The Nun’s Priest
The Yeoman (a commoner who
cultivates his own land)
The Manciple (purchase and storage
The Parson (priest of independent parish)
understand that Chaucer the Poet
actually wrote The Canterbury
but Chaucer the Pilgrim tells
Making himself a character in
the Tales enables Chaucer to
inject opinions without claiming
they are his own,
Structure and Themes
A prologue precedes each
The prologue introduces
the character personally
The tale reveals more
through the character’s
chosen subject and
treatment of that subject
Major themes include
morality and genuine vs.
The Wife of Bath by Geoffrey
Chaucer in The Canterbury
she obeyed him in every thing
That mighte do him pleasance or liking.
And thus they live unto their lives' end
In perfect joy; and Jesus Christ us send
Husbandes meek and young, and fresh in bed,
And grace to overlive them that we wed.
And eke I pray Jesus to short their lives,
That will not be governed by their wives.
And old and angry niggards of dispence,*
God send them soon a very pestilence!
medieval marriage was a largely financial arrangement, involving a transfer
of wealth from the bride's family to the groom. Does this fact make the Wife's
account of her own marriages seem improbable?
there is evidence that medieval law held wives in subordination to their
husband. Should we view her not as a freethinker but as an outlaw?
Finally, what of love? In medieval times, love seems to have had little
place in marriage. How should this fact influence our response to the Wife's
frequent emphasis on sexual appeal as a driving force in her relationships?
The moral of the story seems to confirm her argument in the "Prologue," that
wives should have authority over their husbands, but the proof of the moral
seems to come through magic. Are we to take the story at face value, or is it,
in the truest sense, a "fairy tale"?
Does Chaucer in this way represent the Wife as seeing herself as the
"loathly lady" waiting for some loving husband to unlock the beauty inside