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Undergraduate English Courses

358:412 Seminar: Old English Language and Literature

01  TTH5  CAC  12644  KLEIN  SC-121

This course has two goals: 1) to teach students to read Old English, the language written and spoken in England from roughly 450 to 1100 AD; and 2) to develop skills in critical thinking and writing that are necessary for completing large-scale research projects in literary studies. We will focus mainly on Beowulf, the longest surviving Old English poem, and a text that has been treated from almost every critical perspective imaginable. Inhabited by monsters, pagans, and a hero whose fame derives from both his handgrip and his kindness, Beowulf offers extraordinarily rich ground for exploring the language and culture of England before the Norman Conquest of 1066.  Seamus Heaney’s prize-winning translation and Robert Zemeckis’s animated film have recently brought Beowulf into the midst of popular culture. However, Beowulf has occupied a central place in the canon of English poetry for quite some time and thus offers an excellent springboard for thinking about broader issues within literary studies, such as why we read certain texts rather than others, what we hope to gain from reading, and how modern ideas about reading and interpretation might have differed from those held in earlier historical periods. This is a helpful seminar for students considering doing an Honors thesis or any other sort of independent writing/research project in the Humanities as it focuses closely on bibliographic skills and research methods, as well as on developing original ideas and putting them into elegant prose.  

Requirements: regular translation assignments, attendance, revision workshops, vigorous class participation, several short (1-2 page papers), 1 longer (approximately 15-page) paper, to be completed in several stages