The Anglo-Saxon Period



I. Origin and Development:

1. Anglo-Saxon invaders from the North Europe to the southeastern part of England around 450 A.D. (including the Angles, the Saxons, the Jutes)

2. From the 9th century on, the invasion of the Danes and the career of Alfred.

II. Re-introduction of Christianity in the 7th century:

1. Two Routes: from South: St Augustine of Canterbury, sent by Pope Gregory, to the Kingdom of Kent; from North: missionaries from Ireland

2. Impact on literacy: churchmen as renowned scholars (cf. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of English People; Alcuin; translation of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy and beginning of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under Alfred).

III. Old English Literature:

1. A tradition of oral poetry: transcribed in manuscripts produced in monasteries

2. Largely on religious subjects: literacy limited to only churchmen

3. Germanic heroic poetry: orally performed in alliterative verse

4. The aristocratic or heroic values of the Germanic society:

(1) Nation: a group of people related by kinship

(2) King (loaf-protector): royal generosity as his greatest virtue

(3) Retainers: with the obligations to fight to death for the king and to avenge his death; blood vengeance as a sacred duty
5. Conflict and Combination between the Germanic heroic and Christian values:

6. A Harsh World Vision: hardly concerning romantic love

7. Highly Formulaic Style, in a slow and stately pace with indirection: special vocabulary, figures of speech like synecdoche and metonym, kenning, apposition

8. Irony as a mode of perception: ironic understatement.

 

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