This course introduces students to the powerful and influential corpus of Old English literature. We will read a wide variety of texts: short poems such as the "The Wanderer," "The Seafarer," "The Wife's Lament," and the passionate religious poem "The Dream of the Rood"; chronicles such as the "Battle of Maldon" (against the Vikings) the Old Testament "Exodus," and Bede's "Conversion of the English"; and selections from the greatest of all English epics, Beowulf. Readings will be in Old English, and consequently the first few weeks of the course will be devoted to mastering Old English prosody, vocabulary, and grammar (as well as to a crash course on the early history of the English language). During the last few weeks we will consider the modern reception of Old English literature and explore theories and problems of translation. We will read translations of Old English poems by Yeats, Auden, Tolkein, and, most recently, Seamus Heaney's recent translation of Beowulf.
Requirements include three exams and a final translation project.