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Gold in the Ground: Some Shorter Old English Poems

The opening lines of The Wanderer from the Exeter Book.

The opening lines of The Wanderer from the Exeter Book


with Professor Michael Alexander (University of St Andrews)

at the Old Court, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday, 18th May, 2013

Many people find the shorter Old English poems the best way into the minds of the Anglo-Saxons. They are less allusive than the epic Beowulf and more openly emotive. First The Wanderer and The Seafarer became popular; then the astonishing poem The Dream of the Rood became better understood. More recently the Riddles have offered an appealing key to the Old English poetic style, and the love poems have supplemented the idea that all the old poetry was all about men heroically facing up to death. The essential text for the day is Michael Alexander’s The First Poems in English (Penguin Classics 2008) – on sale in the Sutton Hoo shop - which also provides suggestions for further reading.

Provisional Programme
(There may be variations to the programme on the day)
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 Old English Riddles and Old English poetry.  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.45 The Dream of the Rood.  
  12.45 Lunch break  
  14:00 Man's destiny: The Wanderer and The Seafarer.  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 Love: The Wife's Lament, Husband's Message, Wulf and Eadwacer.  
  16:20 Close  

About Professor Michael Alexander

Professor Michael Alexander held the Chair of English at the University of St Andrews for 18 years, and is now Professor Emeritus. He is a poet with wide interests in medieval and modern English verse, in translation and literary history. His verse Beowulf (1973, rev. 2001) was said by Magnus Magnusson to be “an admirable version that has caught, better than any other I know, the poetic power and eloquence of the original”. The THES review of his History of English Literature (2007) began: ”If I had my way, every student of English would be supplied with a copy of this book.’ His other verse translations appear in The Earliest English Poems (1966), in Old English Riddles from the Exeter Book (2007), and in anthologies by W.H.Auden and Seamus Heaney. Latterly he has published Medievalism: The Middle Ages in Modern England (2007), The First Poems in English (2008), a complete revision of his first book, The Earliest English Poems; Geoffrey Chaucer (2012), an illustrated life, and Reading Shakespeare (2012), an introduction.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Alexander, M., Beowulf: A Verse Translation with introduction and notes. (Penguin Classics 1973; rev. edition 2001)
Alexander, M., The Poetic Achievement of Ezra Pound (Faber 1979; rev. paperback edition, Edinburgh 1998)
Alexander, M., Old English Riddles from the Exeter Book. Verse translations. (Anvil Press, London 1980, 1982, 1984, 2007)
Alexander, M., A History of Old English Literature (Macmillan, London 1983, 1986; 3rd, rev. edition, Broadview, Canada, 2001)
Alexander, M., Beowulf: A Glossed Text (Penguin English Poets, 1995; rev. edition 2000)
Alexander, M., The Canterbury Tales: The First Fragment. A glossed text. (Penguin 1996)
Alexander, M., A History of English Literature (Palgrave Macmillan 2000; 2nd edition, 2007; 3rd edition, 2013)
Alexander, M., Medievalism: The Middle Ages in Modern England (Yale University Press 2007)
Alexander, M. Geoffrey Chaucer (Scala, 2012)
Alexander, M., Reading Shakespeare (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)


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 payment 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
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Website www.wuffingeducation.co.uk

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