English 104

Introduction to Old English

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2012 O'Brien O'Keeffe, Katherine
TTh 12:30-2 110 Barrows

Book List

Marsden, Richard.: The Cambridge Old English Reader; McGillivray, Murray.: A Gentle Introduction to Old English


Canst þu þis gewrit understandan? Want to? “Introduction to Old English” will give you the tools to read a wide variety of writings from among the earliest recorded texts in the English language. What is there to read?  We will look at some of the best kept secrets in (Old) English—short heroic poems, accounts of war, poems of meditation and elegies, history, saints’ lives, and romance—and get a taste of the curious (recipes, charms, prognostications) as well as the humorous (riddles). To complement our work with these Old English texts we’ll be using on-line and library resources to learn about the material culture of Anglo-Saxon England. With these resources we can also experiment with deciphering the texts as they appear in their manuscripts and delve into the mysteries of Old English runes.  While we work on language in the beginning of the course we will also be reading and discussing the texts. Once you are up and running with the language, the rest of the course will provide practical experience in reading and discussing Old English works on a range of topics: the portrayal of monsters, saints, and heroes, cultural identity and the problem of the Vikings, the composition of Old English poetry, and the search for Anglo-Saxon paganism. In-class discussion will cover questions of cultural difference, translation, subjectivity, and otherness.

 No prior experience with Old or Middle English is necessary for this course.

 Required work: Quizzes, mid-term assessment, final examination, daily class participation, a short paper, one or two in-class reports.

 This course satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.



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