Instructor: Joseph Shack
Day & Time: Mondays & Wednesdays 9-10:15am
This course serves as an introduction to Old English, the language spoken and written by the inhabitants of early medieval England from the fifth century until around 1100. Although many of its linguistic features are recognizable in Modern English, Old English must be learned as a foreign language. The first half of the course focuses on learning the grammar of Old English. We begin translating short texts in the third week, before progressing to more complex prose and poetry as the semester continues. Our readings will consist of “classroom” texts used for the education of medieval clergymen and monks: Æflric’sColloquy, an early dramatic text that facilitated language learning by means of a fictional dialogue; scientific texts explaining the workings of the natural world; wisdom poetry that sought to catalogue how members of society ought to act; riddles that offered playful intellectual exercises their audience. Alongside translation, some time will be devoted to discussion organized around our translations and a few select readings to familiarize students with early medieval England and its social, intellectual, and political contexts.