Anglo-Saxon Literature

Topics: Old English literature, Anglo-Saxons, Beowulf Pages: 20 (7580 words) Published: June 12, 2013
"Old English literature" (sometimes referred to as "Anglo-Saxon literature") encompasses literature written in Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon) in Anglo-Saxon England from the 7th century to the decades after the Norman conquest of Norman Conquest of 1066. "Cædmon's Hymn", composed in the 7th century according to Bede, is often considered the oldest extant poem in English, whereas the later poem, The Grave is one of the final poems written in Old English, and presents a transitional text between Old and Middle English.Likewise, the Parker Chroniclecontinues until the 12th century. The poem Beowulf, which often begins the traditional canon of English literature, is the most famous work of Old English literature. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has also proven significant for historical study, preserving a chronology of early English history. In descending order of quantity, Old English literature consists of: sermons and saints' lives, biblical translations; translated Latin works of the early Church Fathers; Anglo-Saxon chronicles and narrative history works; laws, wills and other legal works; practical works on grammar, medicine,geography; and poetry.In all there are over 400 surviving manuscripts from the period, of which about 189 are considered "major". Scholarship

Old English literature has gone through different periods of research; in the 19th and early 20th centuries the focus was on the Germanic and pagan roots that scholars thought they could detect in Old English literature.Later, on account of the work of Bernard F. Huppé, the influence of Augustinian exegesis was emphasised.Today, along with a focus upon paleography and the physical manuscripts themselves more generally, scholars debate such issues as dating, place of origin, authorship, and the connections between Anglo-Saxon culture and the rest of Europe in the Middle Ages, and literary merits. Extant Manuscripts

A large number of manuscripts remain from the Anglo-Saxon period, with most written during the last 300 years (9th to 11th centuries), in both Latin and the vernacular. There were considerable losses of manuscripts as a result of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century.Scholarly study of the language began in the reign of Queen Elizabeth Iwhen Matthew Parker and others obtained whatever manuscripts they could. Old English manuscripts have been highly prized by collectors since the 16th century, both for their historic value and for their aesthetic beauty of uniformly spaced letters and decorative elements. There are four major poetic manuscripts:

The Junius manuscript, also known as the Caedmon manuscript, is an illustrated collection of poems on biblical narratives. •The Exeter Book, is an anthology, located in the Exeter Cathedral since it was donated there in the 11th century. •The Vercelli Book, contains both poetry and prose; it is not known how it came to be inVercelli. •The Nowell Codex, also known as the Beowulf Manuscript, contains prose and poetry, typically dealing with monstrous themes, including Beowulf. Seven major scriptoria produced a good deal of Old English manuscripts: Winchester,Exeter, Worcester, Abingdon, Durham, and two Canterbury houses, Christ Church and St. Augustine's Abbey; regional dialects include: Northumbrian, Mercian, Kentish, West Saxon(the last being the main dialect) . Some Old English survives on parchment, stonestructures, and other ornate objects. Old English Poetry

Old English poetry falls broadly into two styles or fields of reference, the heroic Germanic and the Christian. With a few exceptions, almost all Old English poets are anonymous. Although there are Anglo-Saxon discourses on Latin prosody, the rules of Old English verse are understood only through modern analyses of the extant texts. The first widely accepted theory was constructed by Eduard Sievers (1893).,who distinguished five distinctalliterative patterns. Alternative theories have been proposed; the theory of John C....
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