This sixth-century brooch illustratesthe Anglo-Saxon love ofelaborate surface decoration.
Credit: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Who says the Dark Ages were “dark”? In the world that we sometimes think of as barbaric and violent, beauty was prized in visual ornamentation and literary elaboration. In this introduction to Anglo-Saxon literature, students will study the literature and literary techniques of the early Middle Ages, thus preparing students to read Beowulf with an appreciation for its artistry and beauty. Students will learn the conventions of Anglo-Saxon poetry, solve online riddles, write riddles, and reflect on what they have learned.
What can we learn from the manuscripts and literature of the Anglo-Saxons? What are some formal elements of Anglo-Saxon poetry?
a) helmberend—"helmet bearer" = "warrior"
b) beadoleoma—"battle light" = "flashing sword"
c) swansrad—"swan road" = "sea" Essentially, then, a kenning is a compact metaphor that functions as a name or epithet; it is also, in its more complex forms, a riddle in miniature.)
Examples of each of these aspects of Anglo-Saxon prosody can readily be found in this online text of Beowulf from the Labyrinth Library (for other texts, see the last bulleted item in this section, below).
2-3 class periods