Beowulf Notes Presentation

Beowulf Literary Unit
Two Texts We’ll Study:
1. Epic Poem- Beowulf
Poet- unknown Anglo-Saxon
The focus of
2. Elegy- “The Seafarer”
Poet- unknown Anglo-Saxon
*Let’s Meet our Translator, Dr. Burton Raffel
The Beowulf Text
• First work ever recorded in Old English- The
Ancestral Language of English speakers.
• Surviving version of text composed around
750 and written down in in the 11th century.
• Originated as a FOLK EPIC, presented by scops.
• Referred to as a “self-portrait” of a culture.
• Viewed mostly as an historical text until the
20th century.
• Considered England’s National Epic.
England- The Name Says it All!
• Britain’s Invaders- Britons, Gaels, Celts,
Romans, and eventually the Anglo-Saxons.
• Anglo-Saxons: pagan tribes from the area we
know today as Germany.
• Invasion Motivation: deep-Sea fishermen and
farmers seeking new land and better waters.
• Britain acquires the name “Angle-Land” from
its Scandinavian invaders.
A Snapshot of Beliefs and Cultures
• Christianity and Pagan culture battle for
victory in this newly invaded country.
• The text Beowulf represents both belief
systems and cultures.
• “Good” vs. “Evil” dominate the plot.
• Depicts warrior culture and a very hierarchical
social structure (kings, warriors, commoners,
Anglo-Saxon Literature Basics
• Poetry (their good stuff)
-heroic: recounts the achievements of
warriors (Beowulf).
-elegiac: laments the loss of people and
the past (“The Seafarer”).
• Prose- Composed in Latin b/c the vernacular
was viewed as a “vulgar tongue”.
Epic Poetry
• Basic Elements: Epic Hero, a quest, valorous
deeds, divine intervention, and great events.
• Showcases characteristics such as: courage,
strength, and dignity.
• Begins usually “in medias res”.
• Tone is serious.
• Style is lofty.
• Long speeches that catalog battles, weapons, and
royal gifts.
• Function as entertainment and an education.
Epic Hero
• High Social Status and/or standing.
• Larger-than-life figure who nonetheless is mere
• Is the “good guy”.
• Important to his culture and his people!
• The epitome of what it means to be part of its
culture and its time.
• This guy (and it usually is) is making it rain mead!
Things to Consider…
• Paraphrasing vs. Summarizing Poetry
• Indirect vs. Direct Characterization
• Elements of Christian and Pagan Beliefs and
• What is good and what is evil?
• Allusions- the Creation story, Cain and Abel
• Why is Grendel so angry?
• What does the description of Hrothgar tell us
about Anglo-Saxon Warrior kings?