Here are some of the daily assignments and topics we discussed via our Google+ Community.
1. Go and watch this brief talk on Beowulf from Francis Leneghan, a professor at the University of Oxford. Then answer the following questions:
A. What is the word for poet in old English and what modern word recalls that? (Hint: If you're looking for spelling, this word also appears in our textbook in the "The Anglo-Saxon Period".)
B. Does the speaker believe that the “author” of Beowulf (that is, the person who wrote down the words in the manuscript) is just using familiar, well-known material to put together the story, or is he actually creating original material?
C. How does Beowulf himself take “poetic license” or embellish his own story? What is poetic license?
D. What do you think “primary orality” and “residual orality” mean?
And then, pursuant to our discussion of primary and residual orality, this:
Here's an interesting list of characteristics of oral cultures. This is connected to my comment on the "primary orality" and "residual orality" discussion on the post about the podcast from the Oxford prof.
This list is relevant to Kilwch and Olwen as well as to Beowulf, as some of these characteristics explain the odd structures of the story of King Arthur's exploits. The repetitiveness, for example.
I'm interested in this idea that the scribe of Kilwch and Olwen or the scribe of Beowulf might have been just transcribing oral speech, rather than creating a written text. Is transcribing a story from an oral tradition the same thing as writing a story on paper for the first time? Maybe literacy (that is, reading and writing) doesn't happen until "residual orality" fades away to a point that the language is being generated on the page rather than just recorded from being heard.
2. Read “Literary Elements” on p 30 in the textbook and answer these three questions:
A) Anglo-Saxon poetry usually has four strong beats per line, separated into two halves and divided by a pause called a______.
B) Alliteration means repeating the beginnings sounds over multiple words like fat fox or purple panda. Often alliteration is used to connect two halves of the same line. Find an example and give the line #.
C) What is a kenning?
3. Read this convocation address by George Saunders from this year’s graduation at Syracuse University. How do you think Saunders’ advice would hold up in Beowulf’s time?
4. In Beowulf, after the defeat of Grendel, the Danes rejoiced that there was no warrior better suited to rule over men than Beowulf. (See lines 505-515.) List five words associated with a warrior suited to rule over men in Anglo-Saxon times, and then list five words associated with an ideal president for contemporary times in the USA.
5. What are Ales Stenar and how does this relate to Beowulf? (Hint: In Beowulf's time, the people who lived in this area would have been called a name that is actually pronounced "Yates" although it looks like it would rhyme with "beets." )