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2. What is English Literature?
Old English – ancestor of modern English, btw. Modern and Old English was period of Middle English – when the foreign language of Old English changed to the language which we use now, Middle English.
Old English – was in nature strength and violence,
- it was language rich in consonants,
- clustering consonants together
- mouth seems to perform a swift act of violence
- it seems to be a series of loud noises
Dialects – in the Middle English phase (phase of transition) all the dialects of England seemed to be as good as each other and all of them had literatures. This explains some difficulties. F.e. Chaucer wrote in English of London, but there were dialects from Worcestershire, Lancashire, and Kentish.
About 1400 the history of English literature becomes the history of the literature of one dialect.
But even in the modern English period a number of writers wrote in dialects.
3. The first English literature
Roman Britain – ancient Romans called them BRITONS
- they brought their language from with the manes of streets survive and the names of towns
- they were skilled in achievements, engineering, government…
- central heating, public baths, theatres, system of roads…
- than they fall of because of invaders who cross the Europe
Anglo – Saxons (4th – 11th century)
-language called Anglo – Saxon, we shall keep the name OLD ENGLISH
-The legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table – they told about brave knight fighting against the new barbars
-A-S had their own German God, from their names we know today the name of weed days (Thor, Woden…)
-Literature was oral, passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation
-Creators were unknown – they were given in written form long after their creation
-almost VERSE LITERATURE,
-PROSE – not strictly literature – history, theology, letters, biography – names of authors are known, because they were written on paper
-Verse is matter of ear and mouth, and prose is matter of a pen
- the oldest poem in the English language
- wasn’t composed in the England but on the continent of Europe
- the new settlers brought it over along
- it was written down at the end of the 9th century by the monk in a monastery
- it is stirring, warlike, violent poem of 3000 lines
- it is about Beowulf – the hero, and his struggle with monster called GRENDEL, which was danger for king Hrothgar. Beowulf sails from Sweden and comes to help to the king. He fights with Grendel and his horrific mother.
- in this warrior poem, but it is not only a primitive composition, it show a great skill in its construction, its imagery and language are sophisticated.
- It is not a Christian poem (but the Christian flavour was given to it by the monastery scribe) but the product of an advanced pagan civilization
Head – rhyme
–the line is divided into two halves, and each half has two heavy stresses
–HR means making words behind with the same sound
–this is called alliteration, but alliteration really refers to words beginning with the same letter, which is not always the same thing with the same sound, ALLITERATION is when the one of the main stresses in the first line begins with the same consonant sound as the first main stress in the second half line
–CAESURA – the gap between the two half lines
–Since the Norman Conquest most English verse has used end-rhyme (ordinary rhyme), old head – rhyme had some influence on English writers
–In 20th century some poets have abandoned ordinary rhyme and came back to HR
Old English prose
- Anglo – Saxon Chronicle – kept by monks in monasteries
-in 9th century was England divided to 3 kingdoms:
- NORTHUMBIA – centre of learning, rich monasteries, manuscript books,
Almost all of Old English prose was written in Northumbria dialect.
-the Danes invaded England - The battle of Maldon – tell us of a fight against the Danes, the greatest battle poem in English, we don’t know the author
-the monasteries were damaged, the books were ripped for their rich ornaments, the monks were killed
-Alfred the Great, the king of Wessex made at first England peaceful place and than he began to improve the state of education, founding colleges, importing teachers from Europe translating Latin books into West Saxon (or Wessex) English
4. The coming of the Normans
Normans – absorbed the culture of late Roman Empire, long Christianised, spoke Norman French (offshoot of Latin)
-Middle English – btw. French and old English
Domesday Book – catalogue of the king’s property – William the Conqueror
-Old English literature dies, Normans killed the culture of Anglo – Saxons
-mix of the culture of France – the old France literature
-the Normans which lived in England were not very skilled in use the language of conqueror, so rather usage of Norman French or Old English they use LATIN
-Mythology – King Arthur and his Knights of Round table, Robin Hood,
-Middle English religious writing – awareness of woman ( Blessed Virgin, Mother of Christ,
-Middle English non-religious writing – love poems , patriotic songs, carols for x- mass and Easter, political songs.