History of English Literature

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Old English 496-1050
Middle English1050-1500
Modern English1500 onwards
Old English literature encompasses literature written in Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon), during the 600-year Anglo-Saxon period of England, from the mid-5th century to the Norman Conquest of 1066. These works include genres such as epic poetry, hagiography, sermons, Bible translations, legal works, chronicles, riddles, and others. In all there are about 400 surviving manuscripts from the period, a significant corpus of both popular interest and specialist research. ROMANSConquered the Celts in 55bc, left in early 5th c. Were civilized and developed.| GERMANIC TRIBESSaxons, angles, jutes, Scandinavians, picts, Scots.Were barbaric and uncivilized.|

Trends of that age:
1. The praise of the heroic acts of warriors
2. The adventures and travels of the sea-people.
3. Hebrew
4. It was oral. Music and poetry went side by side. (Lays were composed. Lay: a poem that was written to be sung usually telling a story) 5. It was alliterative and accented.
6. Literature was written in runic system. With system of lines. 7. The literature is not found in whole, it was in fragments and parts. 8. It contained no mention of women, only men related. b/c it had courage, loyalty, bravery’s incidents in it. The strong tribal system had no place for women in it. 9. Mostly the lit was composed in epic form.

10. It is anonymous in nature; writers are not known. Nature of the work is important, not the name. 11. It was full of riddles and compound words. Different words were adopted to denote to one thing; e.g ship= dragon of the sea. The old english had almost a hundred words for warrior, and about 25 for ship. It is the diversity of the language.

1) Waldhere
It is about king waldhere. 60 lines. Found in two parts i.e it is fragmentary. The subject is of crossing a passage. The first portion is a speech given by Hildegyth trying to motivate Waldere for his upcoming fight. The second fragment consists mainly of Waldere challenging and taunting Guthhere. 2) Finnisburh

discovered in 1860. It is about the battle of Finnisburh, also about crossing the passage of a lake. 3) Beowulf
Intro: Most famous. 3182 lines. Found in 10th c. written in 7th or 8th AD. About the ancestors of English race. Honor, wisdom, courage, loyalty of lords and warriors. This epic first time mentions women, Dannish princess in this epic. Story: king of Danes, Hrothgar, built a great hall, Heorot, near the sea and all gathered there at night to feast and listen to songs. One night monster, Grendel, came and killed 30 sleeping warriors. For 12 winters he kept doing this, the warriors couldn’t defeat the monster. Beowulf, living at Geats with his uncle learned this, offered to fight, along with 14 companions, for Danes, who were his father’s friends. Beowulf was a man of immense strength and courage and a mighty swimmer. During the fight he gripped the monster bare-handed, the whole arm of Grendel, the monster, is wrenched off while he escapes to the sea and dies there. The arm is hanged over the king’s seat. At midnight the mother monster comes and seizes the advisor of the king and runs away. Beowulf follows her to the hidden cave full of treasures in the sea. Finds a magic sword there and cuts her neck. The venomous blood melts the blade and only hilt is left of the sword. In the last part of the poem, when he is an old man, there is another fight with the fire dragon, in which both, beowulf and dragon, die. MINSTERAL POEMS:

1) Widsith
Widsith is an Old English poem of 144 lines that appears to date from the 8th century, drawing on earlier oral traditions of Anglo-Saxon tale singing. It is by widely-travelled poet Widsith (his name simply means "far journey"). Widsith was a scop (court poet). Written in nothumbrian dialect. 2) Deor’s Lament:

"Deor" (or...
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