This course introduces students to the magnificent corpus of Old English literature (composed between 700 and 1100 CE). 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), and Bede's "Conversion of the English"; and selections from the greatest of all English epics, Beowulf. Readings will be in Old English, and thus the first few weeks of the course will be devoted to mastering Old English prosody, vocabulary, and grammar (as well as a crash course on the early history of the English language). During the last two weeks we will explore the modern reception of Old English literature, reading translations of Old English poems by Pound, Auden, Tolkien, and, most recently, Seamus Heaney.
Requirements include several short quizzes, a mid-term, and a final translation project.
No previous knowledge of Old English is required, but students are expected to hunker down with the original texts!