English 103w. Advanced Old English: Wisdom Poetry

Instructor: Kristen Carella
Time: TBA | Location: TBA

Old English poems love to recycle age-old wisdom in what are called “gnomic” verses.  Usually expressed in laconic language and embedded in various genres of poems, the meaning of these passages can be unclear: Soð bið swicolost could be translated as “Truth is complicated.” Their prevalence, however, suggests that the wisdom they conveyed was held in universal esteem.  This course will examine the structure, content, and context of gnomic verses from multiple angles.  In addition to our daily translations, we will pursue questions such as: What are the sources of these passages?  What ideological/religious beliefs do they reflect?  How do they function within the various literary genres where they occur?  What is the importance of these passages in Beowulf?  We will also compare Old Norse/Icelandic and Old Irish wisdom literature (in translation) as we attempt to understand this fascinating and challenging aspect of Old English literature. Prerequisite: one term of Old English or the equivalent.

Note: English 102 is a prerequisite for English 103. Students who complete both English 102 and 103 with honors grades will fulfill the College language requirement and the English Department's Foreign Language Literature requirement.