Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(1) Anglo-Saxon England

- Britannia = the name derived from the Celtic-speaking inhabitants, the Britons; used when England was a province of the Roman Empire from the 1st to the 5th century

- England = derived from the invading Germanic tribe of the Angles


Anglo-Saxon Culture

- based on the aristocratic heroic and kinship values, emphasizes especially the uncle-nephew relationship

- the tribe is ruled by a chieftain called king, the lord surrounds himself with a band of retainers, often his kins

- the faithfulness of the warriors is rewarded by royal generosity, the good king is called a ring-giver

- the king sets an example which his men are to follow

- life is harsh, men are said to be cheerful in the mead hall, but even there they think of struggle in war

- blood vengeance is a sacred duty

- Romantic love does not exist yet, women are paid no attention

Old English Poetry

- the Anglo-Saxon invaders brought a tradition of oral poetry performed in alliterative verse by a scop, i.e. bard

- poetry is moulded by the inherent conflict between the heroic code and the Christian religion

- much of the Christian poetry is also cast in the heroic mode: "The Dream of the Rood", "Caedmon's Hymn"

- the poetic diction consists of formulaic phrases and repetitions of parallel syntactic structures

- uses synecdoche (keel for ship), metonymy (iron for sword) and kenning, i.e. a compound of two words in place of another which creates a condensed metaphor (life-house for body)

- uses parallel and appositive expressions known as variation (God as holy Creator, Master Almighty etc.)

- also uses irony and litotes, i.e. ironic understatement (battle-play for fighting)

St Augustine of Canterbury (d. 604)

- a Benedictine monk sent by the Pope as a missionary to the King of Kent

- spread Christianity, which also had a positive impact on the rise of literacy, first only in monasteries

The Venerable Bede (c. 673 - 735)

- a Christian churchman writing in Latin

Ecclesiastical History of the English People (completed in 731):

- records the Anglo-Saxon conquest and the vicissitudes of the petty kingdoms that comprised England at the time

- focuses on the conversion, the spread of Christianity and the growth of the English church

- contains many stories of saints and miracles to testify to the glory of God

- includes "Caedmon's Hymn", the earliest extant Old English poem, and the only biographical information about any Old English poet

"Caedmon's Hymn" (composed between 658 - 680)

- written by Caedmon, supposedly an illiterate herder, who miraculously received the gift of song in a dream

- Caedmon entered the monastery and founded a school of Christian poetry

- the poem is the oldest oral tradition poem or song in Old English composed in England

"The Wanderer" (preserved in a manuscript from c. 975)

- an Old English elegiac lament, written by an unknown poet

- follows the wandering on a sea of a lonely warrior who had lost his lord, his companions in arms and a mead hall

- expands the theme from one man's search for a new lord to all human beings in a world wasted by war and time

- employs pathetic fallacy: nature seems to conspire to match the man's mood (the season is winter)

- concludes with a characteristic Old English injunction to practice restraint on earth and place hope only in heaven

"The Battle of Maldon" (c. 1000)

- the last Old English heroic poem, written by an unknown poet

- inspired by the battle between the English and the Danish invaders near Maldon, Essex, in 991

- ended with the victory of the Vikings

- elaborates on the code of honour obliging the warrior to avenge his slain lord or to die in the attempt

Beowulf (composed in c. 8th century, preserved in a 10th century manuscript)

- a long elegiac Old English epic reviving the heroic language, style and pagan world of ancient Germanic tribes

- written in the tradition of oral poetry in alliterative verse: uses words and formulaic expressions typically found also in other Old English poems, but also uses unique words that are recorded only once in a language

- presumably written by a single Christian poet: alludes to God (the monster Grendel is said to be a descendant of Cain), does not refer to pagan deities with the single exception of Wyrd, or Weird, the goddess of fate

- elaborates on the then most important relationships: that of the warrior, or thane, and his lord, and that of kinsmen

- concerned with two Scandinavian tribes, the Danes with king Hrothgar and the Geats with king Hygelac, set in the middle of the 5th century

- Beowulf, the warrior of the Geats, kills the supernatural monster Grendel and Grendel's mother to save the Danes and to exact revenge on behalf of Hrothgar, but also to demonstrate his strength and to enhance his personal glory

- later, as an old king, Beowulf fights against the dragon to save his own people, but is killed

- might be viewed as the poet's lament for heroes like Beowulf who went into the darkness without the light of his own Christian faith

King Alfred the Great (life 849 - 899, reign 871 - 899)

- initiated the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (started in 891)

- a historical record written in Old English

- takes the form of annals, i.e. an annual summary of important events in England

- copies of the original were later distributed to centres of learning and then carried on independently

- written by monks, that is devotes much space to church politics

Základní údaje

  • Předmět

    Britská literatura 3.
  • Semestr

    Zimní semestr 2008/09.
  • Přednášející

    David Livingstone.
  • Status

    Povinná přednáška pro III. blok.


Abrams, M. H., ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1999.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.


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