This is an introductory course which addresses the earliest forms of written texts in the English language (up to c. 1100). Knowledge of Old English adds depth to the study of both prominent and noncanonical literary works (and other texts) from all phases of the Middle Ages and the early modern period. Emphasis is placed on the study of poetry and poetics, popular and marginalized texts, and early narrative theory (including theory of orality and literacy). Concepts introduced in the course will help participants acquire an understanding of many features of modern English, both elegant and idiosyncratic, and will provide skills useful for future study of other languages. The locus of Old English literary culture is fundamental to the study of the history of the English Language and the cultural history of Britain, supporting much recent work in the areas of Feminist criticism (and Gender Studies generally); theories of alterity, the body, voicing, and marginalization; hermeneutic criticism; historicist approaches and postcolonial theory; and theoretical treatments of popular culture. The course is also especially well-suited to many areas of Textual Studies, including manuscript study and theory of textual criticism and bibliography.
Course Text: Richard Marsden, The Cambridge Old English Reader