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Post  Admin on Thu Feb 10, 2011 10:49 am

16) What was the literary and literacy situation in early OE? (aldi, Clhoe)


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Post  Bi on Sun Feb 27, 2011 11:03 am Some of the most important surviving works of Old English literature are Beowulf, an epic poem; the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a record of early English history; the Franks Casket, an early whalebone artifact; and Caedmon's Hymn, a Christian religious poem. There are also a number of extant prose works, such as sermons and saints' lives, biblical translations, and translated Latin works of the early Church Fathers, legal documents, such as laws and wills, and practical works on grammar, medicine, and geography. Still, poetry is considered the heart of Old English literature. Nearly all Anglo-Saxon authors are anonymous, with a few exceptions, such as Bede and Caedmon.

Beowulf: - Beowulf is considered to be the longest and greatest poem extant in Old English.

- Beowulf was written sometime between 720 - 796 a.d.

- Scyld Scefing (king sent by God to the Danes).

- One of those descendants, Hrothgar, builds the Danes a great hall called Heorot. Heorot is soon invaded by Grendel, a half-human monster who is hated by God. Beowulf arrives, battles Grendel and kills the monster by tearing off its arm.

- Grendel's mother then comes to avenge her son. Beowulf and Hrothgar follow her to her lair in a disgusting lake, Beowulf almost loses, but with the aid of God is eventually victorious.

- The poem then jumps fifty years into the future when Beowulf is in old age and king of the Geats. He then fights his last battle agains a dragon that is guardian of a cursed treasure. The dragon is killed, but mortally wounds Beowulf in the battle, and the old king passes away while gazing on the cursed treasure. The death of Beowulf marks the decline of the Geats, who are now surrounded by enemies made in previous campaigns.

- Consequently, the poem ends in mourning for both Beowulf and his nation.

The anglo-Saxon Chronicle: - The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles are in fact a number of chronicles compiled progressively into what is known colloquially as The Anglo Saxon Chronicle relating their history. - The annals were initially created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great. Multiple manuscript copies were made and distributed to monasteries across England and were independently updated. In one case, the chronicle was still being actively updated in 1154.

Literacy in Old English: A guide to Old English (fifth edition), Mitchell, B. And Fred C. Robinson, Cambrige, Massachusetts, USA,1992, p11 376p.

After 900, West Saxon was increasingly used as a standard written language. It is for this reason that, initially at any rate, you learn West Saxon. But even here the written conventions were never as rigidly observed as they are in Great Britain or America today, where compositors, typists and writers, different parts of the country use the same spelling, no matter how different their pronunciations may be.


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