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Sounds of the Saxons: Old English Language and Poetry

The opening lines of Beowulf (London, British Library, Cotton Vitellius A. xv, fol. 129r)

with Dr Richard Dance

in The Old Court, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday, 12th May, 2012.

Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons, is a fascinating mix of the strange and the familiar. Its words can still be recognized in the language we speak today, as well as in the names of towns and villages all around us, and yet it looks and would have sounded very different to Modern English.
In the morning we shall begin by investigating the origins and history of Old English. We shall examine the written evidence that survives, from the earliest runic inscriptions to the great manuscripts from the hey-day of Anglo-Saxon literature. We shall look in detail at how Old English was pronounced, and learn to read and understand a range of words and simple sentences.
The afternoon will focus on Old English poetry, one of the greatest and most enduring artistic contributions of the Anglo-Saxons. We shall begin by exploring the sounds and rhythms of this verse, and look at some short poems and some excerpts from longer ones (including the epic masterpiece Beowulf), examining the original Old English next to a translation. The final session will be dedicated to one of the most famous Old English poems, The Battle of Maldon, which tells the story of an encounter between Anglo-Saxons and Vikings in Essex in the year 991, an occasion when words were every bit as important as deeds.

Provisional Programme
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 Bone, Stone and Skin: the Evidence for Old English  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.45 Old English Words and Sounds  
  12.45 Lunch break (bring picnic or eat in NT restaurant)  
  14:00 Hwæt! Introducing Old English Poetry  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 Words and Weapons: The Battle of Maldon  
  c.16:20 Close  

About Dr Richard Dance

Richard Dance is Senior Lecturer in Old English in the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of a number of books and articles about the language and literature of the Old and early Middle English periods, and is especially interested in vocabulary, etymology and the language of Old English poetry. He has lectured widely on these subjects and has read Old English verse on radio programmes such as Poetry Please and The Poetry of History.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

P. S. Baker, Introduction to Old English (Blackwell, 2003) (http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/resources/IOE/index.html)
S. A. J. Bradley, trans., Anglo-Saxon Poetry (Everyman, 1995)
R. Hamer, ed. and trans., A Choice of Anglo-Saxon Verse (London, 1970)
M. Godden and M. Lapidge, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature (Cambridge, 1991)
H. Magennis, The Cambridge Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Literature (Cambridge, 2011)
R. Marsden, The Cambridge Old English Reader (Cambridge, 2004)
B. Mitchell and F. C. Robinson, A Guide to Old English, 8th ed. (Blackwell, 2011)
B. Mitchell, An Invitation to Old English and Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford, 1995)
R. North and J. Allard, Beowulf and Other Stories: A New Introduction to Old English, Old Icelandic and Anglo-Norman Literatures (Longman, 2007)
P. Pulsiano and E. Treharne, eds., A Companion to Anglo-Saxon Literature (Oxford, 2001)
C. Saunders, ed., A Companion to Medieval Poetry (Oxford, 2010)

Bookings

Please phone or email to check the availability of places. Study Days are 38 per person, which includes a full day of lectures, access to the NT site, parking, coffee and tea throughout the day, and access to the NT exhibition. Once you have reserved your place please send a cheque to confirm the booking. For your first booking please complete the application form to ensure that we have recorded your contact details correctly.

Wuffing Education,
4 Hilly Fields,
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4DX
tel : 01394 386498

Email cliff AT wuffingeducation.co.uk
(replace 'AT' by '@' in order to send email - we used 'AT' to avoid spam robots automatically sending us emails)
Website www.wuffingeducation.co.uk

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