Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Early British Literature

Similar presentations

Presentation on theme: "Early British Literature"— Presentation transcript:

1 Early British Literature
The Celts and the Anglo-Saxons

2 Celtic Literature

3 Ireland has the oldest vernacular tradition of literature in Europe with written texts dating from the 6th c. Old Irish: before 900 Middle Irish: Late Middle/Early Modern Irish: Modern Irish and Scots: 1650-present Irish Literature Brian Boru Harp

4 Old Irish Literature The oldest writings are poems written in the margins of 6th c. continental manuscripts: short lyrics on religious or nature themes. The early literature has survived in Middle and Late Middle Irish manuscripts: miscellaneous collections of prose and verse containing legend, history, bardic and lyric poetry, and medical, legal, and religious texts from several periods

5 The Scribe 8th-9th c A hedge of trees surrounds me.
A blackbird’s lay sings to me. Above my lined booklet The trilling birds chant to me. In a grey mantle from the top of bushes The cuckoo sings. Verily—may the Lord shield me!— Well do I write under the greenwood.

6 Major Irish Medieval MSS.
The Book of the Dun Cow (before 1106): contains tales of the Ulster Cycle and Fenian legends The Book of Leinster (before 1160): contains heroic legends The Yellow Book of Lecan, The Great Book of Lecan,The Lebor Brecc, and the Book of Lismore (late 14th or early 15th c.) The Royal Irish Academy alone has more than 1300 mss. – mostly religious, historical and legal treatises Leabhar na hUidre [Book of the Dun Cow], p.73

7 Tain Bo Cuailinge: The Cattle Raid of Cooley from The Book of the Dun Cow

8 Filí (Old Irish); File (Mod. Irish)
The filí (filíd pl.) in the earliest times combined the functions of magician, lawgiver, judge, counselor to the chief, and poet. Later, but still at a very early time, the offices seem to have been divided: Brehons devoted themselves to the study of law, and the giving of legal decisions Druids claimed the supernatural functions, and priestly offices Filíd were principally poets and philosophers The division seems to have already existed in Ireland at the time of St Patrick, who was in constant opposition with the druids. Filíd underwent years of training to compose in verse the laws, genealogies, legends and traditions.

9 Bards In Old Irish culture, the bards were the performers of the filíd’s poems They were record keepers and lineage holders, for the bards could determine a king's legitimacy. To satirize a king was to declare his access to the throne suspect. The role of the bard was historian and social commentator. They glorified heroes while insulting cowards and villains. They were both the newspaper and the opinion page.

10 MACSWEENEY DINES AS BARD RECITES: "The work of the file or poet was recited to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument, The reacaire or reciter [bard] was a subordinate employee of the composer, who sat by the chieftain (his patron) enjoying his own composition." Declan Kiberd, "Irish Literature and Irish History, " in The Oxford Illustrated History of Irieland, ed. R. F. Foster (1989)

11 Welsh Literature The earliest Welsh manuscripts date from the 12th c., but the earliest poetry comes from the 6th c. Before 1100: Y Cynfeirdd ("The earliest poets") or Yr Hengerdd ("The old poetry") The core tradition was praise poetry -- patronage from kings and nobles. The other aspect of the tradition was the professionalism of the poets sustained by the Order of Bards, with a 'rule book' emphasizing the making of poetry as a craft. Poets undertook an apprenticeship of nine years to become fully qualified.

12 Nennius’ Historia Britonum list poets active during the reign of King Ida (547-59): "At that time, Talhaiarn Tataguen was famed for poetry, and Neirin [Aneirin], and Taliesin, and Bluchbard, and Cian, who is called Guenith Guaut, were all famous at the same time in British [that is Brythonic, or, Welsh] poetry." Poems by Taliesin and Aneirin are believed to have survived in the Book of Taliesin and Y Gododdin, Aneirin’s epic of a battle between the Celts and the Saxons. Welsh Poets

13 Roman Britain 1st-5th c.

14 5th Century: Celtic Disarray
408: Devastating attacks by Picts, Scots and Saxons led Britain to declare “independence” from Rome in 410. : Civil war and famine in Britain. Country divided along factional lines 445: Vortigen authorized use of Saxon mercenaries against Scots and Picts 450: adventus Saxonum: Hengest arrived with 3 ships of warriors. Saxons increased settlements.

15 Anglo-Saxon Literature

16 The Kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England

17 Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogy


19 England as a Nation Bede may have been the first writer to articulate the idea of the English as one people in 732 in his History of the English Church and People. Viking Invasions Destroyed kingdoms of Northumbria and East Angles in the 860s Wessex emerged as the power that defeated the Vikings under Alfred the Great 878: Alfred defeated the Vikings at Edington At his death in 899, Alfred was the most powerful regional king in England

20 House of Wessex Wessex: West Saxons
Alfred the Great, his son Edward and wife Ealhswith at the Witan -- Assembly of the Wise Wessex: West Saxons

21 Wessex Dynasty Edward the Elder (r ) succeeded his father Alfred and conquered the Midlands and East Anglia. His son, Athelstan (r ), brought the Scots, the Welsh, the Cumbrians and the Cornish under English rule by 928: he became King of all England and “Emperor of the World of Britain.”

22 Tomb of King Athlestan in Malmesbury Abbey

23 House of Wessex E or A = Æ Coin from King Edgar’s reign
Canute of Denmark Ælgifu Harthacanute Harold I Alfred

24 Genres: Prose Sermons: most popular of prose genres
Translations of Latin religious works and Biblical works Saints’ Lives Legal texts: wills, records, deeds, laws, etc. Scientific and Medical texts Chronicles: historical writing: Anglo Saxon Chronicle

25 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Collection of annals (yearly history) narrating the history of the Anglo-Saxon settlement in Britain. First continuous history written by Europeans in their own language. Probably begun during the reign of King Alfred in the 9th c. After completion of the original chronicle, copies were sent to monasteries and updated yearly. Nine surviving MSS. The initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle, marked secondarily by the librarian of the Laud collection. The manuscript is an autograph of the monastic scribes of Peterborough. The opening sections were likely scribed around The section displayed is prior to the First Continuation. contains various heroic poems inserted throughout. The earliest from 937 is called The Battle of Brunanburh, which celebrates the victory of King Athelstan over the Scots and Norse. There are five shorter poems: capture of the Five Boroughs (942); coronation of King Edgar (973); death of King Edgar (975); death of Prince Alfred (1036); and death of King Edward the Confessor (1065). The two-dimensional work of art depicted in this image is in the public domain in the United States and in those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years. This photograph of the work is also in the public domain in the United States (see Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp.). -- Wkipedia The initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle

26 Known A-S Prose Writers
King Alfred (849-99): translated a variety of Latin works such as Gregory’s Pastoral Care, Augustine’s Soliloquies and Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy. Aelfric, abbot of Eynsham ( ?): known as Grammaticus: greatest writer of A-S sermons, saints’ lives and Biblical glosses and translations. Wulfstan II, archbishop of York (10th c.): author of highly stylistic sermons and clerical legal texts. Alfred the Great

27 Genres: Poetry Thula: alliterative lists of names or tribes
Gnomic verse: proverbs, traditional wisdom Spells: invoke natural and supernatural powers Riddles: what am I? Religious poetry: retellings of Old Testament stories, saints’ lives, “Dream of the Rood” Adaptations of classical philosophical texts: e.g. Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy Wisdom poetry: lyrical, meditative, elegiac – “The Wanderer,” “The Wife’s Lament,” etc. Heroic court poetry: celebration of historical events related by scops: Beowulf, etc.

28 Manuscripts with Anglo-Saxon Poetry
Exeter Book: Codex Exoniensis – 10th c. ms. Largest existing collection of Old English poetry Donated to the library of the Exeter Cathedral by Leofric, the first bishop of Exeter Contains “The Wanderer,” “The Seafarer,” “The Wife’s Lament,” “Widsith,” “The Ruin,” “Deor,” etc. Junius MS. – begun c ce Anthology of religious poetry: Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, Christ and Satan Illustrated: only about one-third of illustrations completed Bodleian Library, Oxford University

29 Junius MS: Angel Guarding the Gates of Paradise
Illustration from page 46 of the Caedmon manuscript The two-dimensional work of art depicted in this image is in the public domain in the United States and in those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years. This photograph of the work is also in the public domain in the United States (see Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp.). Junius MS: Angel Guarding the Gates of Paradise

30 Manuscripts with Anglo-Saxon Poetry
Vercelli Book – 10th c. ms. Cathedral Library, Vercelli, Italy Contains 23 sermons, a life of St. Guthlac and six poems including “The Dream of the Rood” Nowell Codex: Cotton Vitellius A xv – late 10th-12th c. mss. British Library’s Cotton Collection Composite of two mss. Bound together in the 17th c. – damaged in an 18th c. fire in the Cotton Library 1st Codex (12th c): Old English prose: Alfred's translation of Augustine's Soliloquies, the Gospel of Nicodemus, “Solomon and Saturn”, and a fragment of a life of Saint Quentin. 2nd Codex (10th c): Beowulf, Judith and 3 prose works

31 First page of Beowulf from the Cotton Vitellius MS.
This is a public domain image from Kip Wheeler's homepage at Carson-Wheeler College. Kip Wheeler declared its status thus: "The original image of the Beowulf manuscript comes from the anonymous Anglo-Saxon scribe who wrote the 'Nowell Codex', Cotton Vitellius A.x.v. 129 r. It appears here as reproduced in Julius Zupitza's Beowulf: Autotypes of the Unique Cotton MS Vitellius A.xv. in the British Museum with a Transliteration and Notes. E.E.T.S. O.S. 77. London: Trubner & Co., This image is public domain." Originally uploaded to English Wikipedia by Jwrosenzweig. -- Wikipedia

32 Beowulf Prologue

33 What are those weird-looking letters?

34 Poetry Thula Alliterative lists of names and tribes
Oral mnemonic device Found extensively in Widsith Technique also found in Old Testament Gnomic Verse Proverbs, traditional wisdom Hit becwæÞ – It is said “As the sea is smooth when storms are at rest, So people are quiet when peace is proclaimed.” (Exeter Book)

35 Riddles The Anchor I war with the wind, with the waves I wrestle; I must battle with both when the bottom I seek, My strange habitation by surges o’er-roofed. I am strong in the strife, while still I remain; As soon as I stir, they are stronger than I. They wrench and they wrest, till I run from my foes; What was put in my keeping they carry away. If my back be not broken, I baffle them still. The rocks are my helpers, when hard I am pressed; Grimly I grip them. Guess what I’m called. The Exeter Book

36 Spells and Charms Charm for a Swarm of Bees
Take earth with your right hand and throw it under your right foot, saying: I've got it,     I've found it: Lo, earth     masters all creatures, it masters evil,     it masters deceit, it masters humanity's     greedy tongue. Throw light soil over them [the bees] as they swarm, saying: Sit, wise women,     settle on earth: never in fear     fly to the woods. Please be mindful     of my welfare as all men are     of food and land. Trans. Karl Young Notes: The speaker acknowledges his own human shortcomings and realizes that the power of earth must work on himself as well as on the bees. The Anglo-Saxons knew that bees were intelligent creatures: they lived in cooperative communities, stored food efficiently and prudently, could foretell the weather, etc. The beekeeper asks the Wise Women to share their bounty with him, perhaps hoping to receive some of their wisdom along with the honey. The practice of throwing sand or light soil over bees to get them to settle was common among early beekeepers throughout northern Europe. It has been suggested that this confuses their flight pattern, causing them to land. More important, in the magical spirit in which a performance of this sort took place, is that the scatter of soil over the bees defines their earth or home - they may leave gather pollen, but should always return to the precinct defined by the thrown earth.

37 Known A-S Poets Cædmon: herdsman attached to the Whitby monastery during the abbacy of St. Hilda (657–681). Author of “Hymn,” oldest A-S poem The Venerable Bede (c ): Benedictine monk at Jarrow; author of the Historia Ecclesiastica: The History of the Church of England and “Bede’s Death Song” Cynewulf (fl. ca. 750): author of four poems, Christian narratives, Elene, Christ II, Juliana and The Fates of the Apostles. King Alfred (849-99) Permission to use this photograph in the Cædmon article on Wikipedia has been granted to me in a letter by the photographer, Peter Green. Mr. Green was replying to a letter I had written to him requesting his authorization to use it in this way. This photograph is from the page about St. Hilda on the website of St. Wilfrid's Church in Bognor, England. (Mr. Green's photograph of the entire Caedmon Cross can be seen at Caedmon Cross.) Depiction of Cædmon carved on a stone memorial cross on the grounds of St Mary's Church in Whitby. The inscription reads: "To the Glory of God and in memory of Cædmon the father of English sacred song fell asleep hard by 680". Depiction of Cædmon carved on a stone memorial cross on the grounds of St Mary's Church in Whitby

38 Bede’s “Death Song” Fore ðæm nedfere nænig wiorðe ðonc snottora ðon him ðearf siæ to ymbhycgenne ær his hinionge hwæt his gastæ godes oððe yfles æfter deað dæge doemed wiorðe. Facing that enforced journey, no man can be More prudent than he has good call to be, If he consider, before his going hence, What for his spirit of good hap or of evil After his day of death shall be determined. The two-dimensional work of art depicted in this image is in the public domain worldwide due to the date of death of its author, or due to its date of publication. Thus, this reproduction of the work is also in the public domain. This applies to reproductions created in the United States (see Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp.), in Germany, and in many other countries. -- Wikipedia Beda Venerabilis from an medieval manuscript

39 Anglo-Saxon Poetic Conventions
Elegiac mood: the transitoriness of life Ubi sunt: Where are they??? Heroic mode: active, loyal to kinship group, boastful The inevitability of Wyrd: fate Figures of speech Kennings: two words as metaphor for one: hron-rāde whale-road – sea; hord-cofan word-hoard – mind, thoughts Litotes: ironic understatement -- "That [sword] was not useless / to the warrior now." (Beowulf) Variation: parallel appositive phrases – see “Cædmon’s Hymn” Alliterative verse: alliteration is used as the principal device to unify lines of poetry

40 Beowulf Prologue: Alliteration

41 Wisdom Poetry Lyrical: expressions of feelings, meditations on life
Emphasis on transitoriness of fame, glory, kinship, life itself: ubi sunt theme Boethian in exploration of fickle fortune Boethius: author of The Consolation of Philosophy Most found in Exeter Book: “The Ruin,” “The Wanderer,” “The Seafarer,” “The Wife’s Lament,” “The Husband’s Message” King Alfred: author of “Lays of Boethius”

42 Heroic Court Poetry Narrative oral compositions handed down from generation to generation Interactive: warriors in the audience were given their turns to boast: to proclaim their self-worth in a stylized solo declamation, which all recognized as a beot or gilph (boast). Celebrations or commemorations of cultural heroes and historic events Sung at court feasts which also included mead drinking, gift giving, harp playing and displaying of trophies

43 Anglo-Saxon Heroic Poems
Beowulf (c ) Fragments: The Fight at Finnsburh and Waldere The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle contains various heroic poems inserted throughout. 937: The Battle of Brunanburh celebrates the victory of King Athelstan over the Scots and Norse. Five shorter poems: Capture of the Five Boroughs (942); Coronation of King Edgar (973); Death of King Edgar (975); Death of Prince Alfred (1036); and Death of King Edward the Confessor (1065). Two heroic poems have survived in fragments, The Fight at Finnsburh, a retelling of one of the battle scenes in Beowulf (although this relation to Beowulf is much debated), and Waldere, a version of the events of the life of Walter of Aquitaine. Two other poems mention heroic figures: Widsith is believed to be in parts very old dating back to events in the 4th century concerning Eormanric and the Goths, and contains a catalogue of names and places associated with valiant deeds. Deor is a lyric, in the style of Consolation of Philosophy, applying examples of famous heroes, including Weland and Eormanric, to the narrators own case. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle contains various heroic poems inserted throughout. The earliest from 937 is called The Battle of Brunanburh, which celebrates the victory of King Athelstan over the Scots and Norse. There are five shorter poems: capture of the Five Boroughs (942); coronation of King Edgar (973); death of King Edgar (975); death of Prince Alfred (1036); and death of King Edward the Confessor (1065).

44 The Scop Court singer Historian Genealogist Teacher Composer Critic
Warrior Reporter “The Anglo-Saxon scop was a professional or semi-professional tribal poet who celebrated cultural values by singing epics on occasions of great ceremony and festivity…. He was a man of repute, the equal of thanes.” Anglo-Saxon Scops

45 Artemesia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1612-13
Judith as model of psychic liberation -- female who acts- confrontation of sexes from female point of view

46 Artemesia Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant 1613-1614

47 Artemesia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1620

48 Artemesia Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes, c. 1625

Download ppt "Early British Literature"

Similar presentations

Ads by Google