English 105

Anglo-Saxon England

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2017 Thornbury, Emily V.
TTh 2-3:30 B5 Hearst Field Annex

Book List

Campbell, James: The Anglo-Saxons; Keynes, Simon, and Michael Lapidge.: Alfred the Great; Liuzza, R.M.: Beowulf, 2nd ed. Facing Page Translation; McClure, Judith, and Roger Collins, trans.: Bede: The Ecclesiastical History of the English People; Webb, J.F., and D.H. Farmer: The Age of Bede

Other Readings and Media

A course reader.


“Britain, once called Albion, is an island of the ocean...” When the priest Bede set out in the early 700s to write the history of the place we now call England, he portrayed it as a new nation with a deep past, a remote corner of the world that was nevertheless closely connected to Rome, Gaul, and Ireland. Although the “English people” that Bede wrote about did not exactly exist yet, his vision of their past helped map a new future for them as a coherent nation. As we will see in this course, literature was central to the very idea of Anglo-Saxon England: it was in some ways written into being.

By reading a very wide range of texts—histories, biographies, epic and lyric poems, riddles and letters—we will find a multitude of ways to understand these developing versions of English nationhood, as well as the Anglo-Saxons’ cultural preoccupations, values, and ideas. In our readings we will discover what people in the early middle ages found exciting, instructive, beautiful, or exotic. We will also think about think about the physical presence of the past in landscape and artifacts, as we study maps, manuscripts, runes, and artworks of various kinds—painted images, stone sculpture, and metalwork.

By the end of the course, you will have gained new insight into a culture and literature that is both very different from the present and an organic part of the modern world. No knowledge of medieval languages is required, and all texts will be available in translation.

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

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