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Medieval English Literatures: Old English Enigmatic Poems


Dozent/inJan-Peer Hartmann
SemesterWintersemester 2020/2021
Veranstaltungsumfang2 SWS

Di 08:00–10:00


Old English poetry has come down to us in manuscripts that were mostly compiled over a thousand years ago. The texts were composed according to obscure poetic principles and written in a language that has little to do with modern English. Hence, they must by necessity appear enigmatic to those studying them today. However, modern scholarship has long noted that many of the texts in question appear to be deliberately enigmatic in their mode of presentation, that presenting their subject matter in vague or contradictory manner forms part of their playful challenge to the readers to decode their meaning. This is the case not only with more straightforward examples of enigmatic texts such as the Exeter Book riddles, but also with more serious religious poetry.

In this class, we will read some of the most canonical as well as some lesser known Old English poetic texts in the original language, including some of the Exeter Book riddles, Deor, The Rhyming Poem and The Dream of the Rood. Students should bring to this class a basic interest in medieval literature and a general open-mindedness to unfamiliar linguistic and literary forms and conventions, or at least an enjoyment of riddling and decoding. The final mark will be based on regular and active participation and a final essay of 2000 words, to be handed in by the end of the semester.

The seminar will take place online on Webex and Blackboard. There will be live classes during the given time-slot with obligatory participation. You will receive information via email and the Blackboard course blog. Please check your university email regularly and contact me if there are technical problems or questions.