English 102e. Introduction to Old English: Landscape, Seascape, and Early Ecologies

Instructor: Daniel Donoghue
Tuesday & Thursday, 10:30-11:45am | Location: TBA
Course Website

How did people inhabit and view their physical environment in early medieval England? Was it life-sustaining or threatening? What was the balance between managing resources and exploiting them? How did poets and farmers, kings and saints invoke images of land and sea as meaningful symbols? The Old English literature on such questions, which is diverse and engaging, will form the basis of our in-class translations. Other assigned readings will survey environmental criticism and allow us to compare today’s perceptions with those from a distant past.

This course combines language study with the investigation of a critical theme. The narratives set for translation provide a thematic coherence as we dig into the language of Old English, which is the vernacular used in England from the sixth century until about 1100. Although some of its features remain recognizable today, Old English needs to be learned as a foreign language with its own spelling, pronunciation, syntax, and so on. The term begins with an emphasis on grammar, which will be covered in graduated steps until midterm, after which the readings and translation will take up more of our class time.

The promise of this course: you will gain the skills to translate any text in Old English; you will learn a great deal about contemporary English including weird facts your inner word-geek will love; you will expand your knowledge of environmental criticism as we examine its deep history.

Note: Fulfills the College language requirement and the English Department's Foreign Literature requirement (c/o '22) if its continuation, English 103, is also completed.