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Anglo-Saxon Literature: An Introduction

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1 Anglo-Saxon Literature: An Introduction

2 Literature Characteristics
Few “pieces” of literature; however, it covers a larger period of time than any other literary period Originated to celebrate heroism Oral literature (due to widespread illiteracy); therefore, it has to be told from person to person Doesn’t rhyme, but has a strong rhythm suitable for chanting. Recited by the scops/bards (wandering poets) who sang of gods and heroes Status of scops was equal to that of warriors because they preserved fame

3 Literature Content Strong belief in fate
Juxtaposition of church and pagan worlds Admiration of heroic warriors who prevail in battle Express religious faith and give moral instruction through literature Communal hall represents shelter and entertainment Full of battles; boastings, pride in glory and blood-thirstiness Measures time by nights, moons and winters Spiritedness is achieved by respect for bravery and loyalty

4 Common Themes of Poetry
Terror of northern winters Awareness of transitory nature of life References to fear of the sea because of its immensity, cruelty and mystery

5 Literary Devices: Alliteration
Repetition of initial consonant sound Used to bind the two halves of a line One or more accented syllable in the first half of a line is always alliterated with one or more accented syllable in the second half. Gives poetry a chant-like effect Ex) “tears torn out of Grendel’s taut throat”

6 Literary Devices: Homily
Literally "sermon", or any serious talk, speech, or lecture providing moral or spiritual advice. A passage in a work that gives stern solemn advice on how to live and is mostly concerned with morals and conduct.

7 Literary Devices: Caesura
“Every nice ear, must, I believe, have observed that in any smooth English verse of ten syllables, there is naturally a pause either at the fourth, fifth, or sixth syllable.” – Alexander Pope

8 Literary Devices: Caesura
A natural pause or break dividing a FOOT between two words, usually near the middle of a line with two major stressed syllables in each part A FOOT is a unit of rhythm in verse Found in typical Anglo-Saxon verse Literally: “a cutting” Old English, cennan – to declare Old Norse, kenna – to know or name

9 Literary Devices: Caesura
Examples A prince of Geats had killed Grendel

10 Literary Devices: Caesura
How do I identify the stressed vs. the unstressed syllables? stress/accent – a greater amount of force (breath or emphasis) given to one syllable in speaking than is given to another. Slightly louder, higher in pitch, or longer in duration than other syllables

11 Which syllable is stressed?
Eagle Open Cigar Precise Mystique Statue Impact Until

12 Words typically without a stress
For An From The Of At To By With

13 Identify the Stressed Syllables
By John Donne Batter my heart, three-personed God, for You As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend You force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

14 Identify the Caesura By William Blake
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds And binding with briars my joys and desires.

15 Literary Devices: Appositive
An appositive is a noun or pronoun — often with modifiers — set beside another noun or pronoun to explain or identify it. An appositive phrase usually follows the word it explains or identifies, but it may also precede it.

16 Literary Devices: Epithet
A word which makes the reader see the object described in a clearer or sharper light. It is both exact and imaginative. A word of phrase preceding or following a name which serves to describe the character. A short, poetic nickname--often in the form of an adjective or adjectival phrase--attached to the normal name. The Homeric epithet in classical literature often includes compounds of two words such as, "fleet-footed Achilles," "Cow-eyed Hera," "Grey-eyed Athena," or "the wine-dark sea." In other cases, it appears as a phrase, such as "Odysseus the man-of-many-wiles.” The historical epithet is a descriptive phrase attached to a ruler's name. For instance, King Alfred the Great, Duke Lorenzo the Magnificent, Robert the Devil, Richard the Lionheart, and so on. The generally descriptive epithet would appear in Old Norse and Germanic cultures to help distinguish individuals, thus giving us (in Njal's Saga) colorful names such as Hallbjorn Half-Troll, Ulf the Squinter, Hjorleif the Womanizer, and Ketil Flat-Nose. Frequently, this technique allows a poet to extend a line by a few syllables in a poetic manner that characterizes an individual or a setting within an epic poem.

17 Literary Devices: Kenning
A figurative, metaphorical expression/phrase or compound word that takes the place of a common noun A long-winded, forceful metaphor made up of strung-together adjectives and nouns that stand for a thing without naming it (often using alliteration) Vivid and picturesque Connects words to complex concepts and rich emotion Examples . . .

18 Whale-road

19 sea

20 Candle of the sky

21 sun

22 More Examples of Kennings
twilight-spoiler battle-sweat slaughter-dew brow-stars ring-giver light of battle Viking’s moon sun-table dragon blood blood eyes prince sword shield sky

23 Examples of Kennings from Beowulf
Ship: Queen the bent-necked wood The peace-bringer among nations the ringed prow Sword the foamy-necked leavings of the file the sea-wood Battle the sea-farer storm of swords Dragon twilight spoiler

24 A look at complex kennings
Construct complicated kenning strings by means of consecutive substitution. For example, slaughter dew worm dance = battle Slaughter dew worm dance blood worm dance sword dance battle

25 Compound Kennings = ship horse of the sea whale-road = sea

26 then a ship became a “horse of the whale-road”

27 Try this Complex Kenning
Using the following 3 kennings, create a complex kenning meaning “warrior” by using consecutive substitution “provider to ravens” is a warrior “swans of blood” are ravens “mead of battle" is blood

28 Did you get it? provider to the swans of the mead of battle
“provider to ravens” is a warrior “swans of blood” are ravens “mead of battle" is blood provider to RAVENS swans of BLOOD mead of battle = is a WARRIOR

29 Modern Kennings bone-house fire-water information super-highway
gasoline gulper darkness destroyer sleep stopper word-eater sun smudge spinning water-spitter

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