Old English

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2019-20: Fridays, 1:00 p.m.- 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time


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4  11  18  25 


1  8  15  22 


6  13  20 



10  17  24  31 


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Week 28: Infinitives, modals, impersonals, and prepositions

Please read and study: §§205-213; vocabulary groups 176-182 (Word-Hoard).

Please prepare: Riddles, (o); Beowulf, (a) ll. 702b-754.

Beowulf is, of course, the most famous work of Old English poetry, and probably the greatest as well, though it has some rather stiff competition. It continues to intrigue readers and challenge translator-poets; the recent translation by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney managed to land on the best-seller list for several weeks (much to the surprise of those who had written it off as an irrelevant and boring product of yet another dead white European male). It is generally considered an epic, though it is not very similar to the other works from which we define the genre (especially the Iliad and the Odyssey). For one thing, it is much shorter. It is, moreover, very episodic, dealing with several distinct incidents, with a gap of almost fifty years between the second and the third. All the same, it has a seriousness of tone and an epic grandeur that’s hard to beat, and like the ancient epic it promises something like immortality through fame. We cannot, alas, read all of Beowulf (though perhaps that would make an admirable follow-on course), but you can get enough of it here to give you a good taste of it.