10A Study Concepts—Midterm
Distinctions between Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English.
Distinctions between British and Anglo-Saxon
The Great Vowel Shift
century, the pronunciation of the vowels changes
Oral formulaic poetry
. Middle-English poet is called a
; “schope”, same word used for
shape. He is the community memory, charged with passing them on.
. An actual chair vs. the ideal essence of chairness. Two removed from the truth. The
idel. The maker’s opinion of the real, then the product itself…two removed. Platonic ideal of
“the commonwealth”…how ought a commonwealth be constructed and how should it be built,
what should its laws be?
The Ecclesiastical History of the English People—Bede (731)
Bede was primarily responsible for popularizing the BC/AD system of dates.
Describes Britain’s inhabitants as well as its geography. Multilingual, “English, British, Irish,
Pictish, and Latin”. The withdrawal of the Romans, the coming of the English to Britain
(Angles, Saxons, Jutes), conversion to Christianity, Norman conquest?
Abbess Hild of Whitby
. Ruled over monasteries and reformed them, set an “example of holy
life”, piety and grace. Bodily illness for six years, died. Her death revealed through a vision to
a nun called Begu in another monastery and a nun in her own.
. Brother in Hild’s monastery, marked by special grace of God to write
poetry and “make verses”, could only compose “pious” poems. Used to run away when it was
time to sing verses. Once went to the stable and was visited in a dream by a man who asked
him to sing, sang about Creation in his sleep. Became a brother and composed many more
hymns. Caedmon knew he was going to die although to others he appeared healthy, died
Exeter Book Elegies (1072 or a century earlier)
“elegy” used to describe any serious meditative poem…mainly monologues spoken by an
unidentified speaker seemingly cut off from society/home. Vision of life as both infinitely
precious and inevitably transitory.
Fear of aloneness part of Anglo-Saxon culture, loss of identity without tribe. Personall vs.
universal experience, we’ll all suffer loss, signs of decay.
. Nature imagery. Winter. “wintered into wisdom”. Isolation. Loss of one’s
identity when separated from one’s tribe. Humanity’s limitations/transience. Becomes an
experience shared by all men. culture of the mead-hall, gold-friends and the relationships
between king and thanes.
. Like the Wanderer, identifies culture with the mead-hall and the community.