Author Topic: A Trip Through English Lit  (Read 2537 times)

Junior

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A Trip Through English Lit
« on: May 08, 2014, 06:33:29 PM »
I'm skimming through the entire Norton Anthology of English Literature as prep for my English GRE subject test. Both as a way to review what I've read and share this experience, I'll be finishing the journey here. Join me! I'll link to what I've read where available.

Cdmon's Hymn - in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People (~731)
The Dream of the Rood - Author Unknown (sometime between 600 and 900)
« Last Edit: May 09, 2014, 06:07:54 PM by Junior »
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oneaprilday

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Re: A Trip Through English Lit
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2014, 07:21:34 PM »
Good for you and looking forward to following along!! Is it the multi-volume set you're using? I've got that one on my shelf.

Junior

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Re: A Trip Through English Lit
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2014, 07:28:38 PM »
Yup, six volumes. It's nicer than the giant bi-vilumed sets we mostly had available in college. I figured if I was going to do this whole thing I should have that available to me. I'm glad you'll be following along!
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oneaprilday

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Re: A Trip Through English Lit
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2014, 08:19:34 PM »
That's the one I have! And I agree - much nicer to handle than those mammoth volumes!

oldkid

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Re: A Trip Through English Lit
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2014, 09:16:31 PM »
This sounds like too much fun to pass up.  I'll get the set from the library.
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Junior

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Re: A Trip Through English Lit
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2014, 12:00:07 AM »
Cdmon's Hymn - in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People (~731).

I think I got this right. Cdmon was an English guy who would have spoken Old English (think Beowulf). He was supposedly a cowherd who didn't have any kind of musical skill and would leave the table whenever the post-dinner tradition of singing songs about how great God was would start. But one night he was visited by a divine being and told to sing a song in his sleep. The song he sings, the titular Hymn would have been sung in his native tongue, and as such it is one of the earliest known Old English examples of poetry. It has a lot of the structure and form you'll see later on (in my next post, in fact!) and is kinda nice, but a bit on the simple side. We'll find as we go along here that poetry is not my strong suit. Anyways, Cdmon woke up to find his singing skill had remained and he became basically a star at the abbey he worked for.

When Bede wrote this story he did so in Latin because he was a monk and that's what all of his pals knew how to read. He, in fact, translated Cdmon's Hymn from Old English into Latin, so what we can read in the Norton Anthology is at least twice removed from the "original" source. Bede has our back, though, as he mentions that something is always lost, linguistically, when poetry is translated across languages. We'll be talking about that a bit more in the early goings here.

Also nice are the ideas about singing and beauty being something God would like. Though I'm not religious myself, it's always nice to have those that are talk about the more pleasant aspects of their Creator.

The book from which this is excerpted is apparently pretty darn important, as it served at once as a big history lesson and as a propaganda piece which went on to shape the way England looked at itself in the early goings. Bede was later Sainted (pretty sure that's not the right verb). Check out the wikipedia for more on these subjects.

Thoughts?

Wikipedias: Bede, Cdmon's Hymn (check out the Modern English translation (and the Latin and the Old English) here, Ecclesiastical History of the English People
« Last Edit: May 09, 2014, 06:06:04 PM by Junior »
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Bondo

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Re: A Trip Through English Lit
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2014, 12:13:36 AM »
One of these days I'll make oad happy and read stuff or see live theatre.

Some of those anthologies/readers would be a great idea for catching up with a varied set of things. Even though my intro lit class was a bit of a disaster (only grade below a B in college), the book for that class had a lot of great stuff. M Butterfly was probably the thing that stuck with me most.

oneaprilday

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Re: A Trip Through English Lit
« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2014, 12:43:46 AM »
Cdmon's Hymn in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People (~731).


Thoughts?
I don't really have much to add to this except that I love this little hymn, especially when I listen to it in Old English:

(Or the audio version here is even better: Norton audio archives)

I had a prof at grad school (I was one of his TA's) who opened a lecture he was giving to an undergrad class by reciting the hymn - totally electrifying and wonderful.


One of these days I'll make oad happy and read stuff or see live theatre.
:) Do you live in a city where theatre is available?  I definitely don't go, myself, as much as I'd like though I'm hoping to make it up to Vancouver again this summer for a little of the Bard. It's always an awesome experience at this particular Vancouver venue. And it's The Tempest this year! I've never seen a live production of that and I'm teaching it again next year - so I must go!


Some of those anthologies/readers would be a great idea for catching up with a varied set of things. Even though my intro lit class was a bit of a disaster (only grade below a B in college), the book for that class had a lot of great stuff. M Butterfly was probably the thing that stuck with me most.
Makes me sad to think your lit class was such a disaster. :( Was it the prof? Your own mood? Or?
« Last Edit: May 09, 2014, 12:47:10 AM by oneaprilday »

Bondo

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Re: A Trip Through English Lit
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2014, 01:08:05 AM »
Junior, feel free to complain if this discussion is sidetracking your thread too much.

I feel like my relationship with literature as an academic study (or as they called it in high school, English) has some parallels to my film writing. If you asked me to write a 5+ page essay talking about mise en scene and cross-cut editing and how it reinforces thematic points of the film, I would struggle. I don't talk about technical stuff like that almost at all, certainly not usefully at length. I'm sure I'm a better writer now than I was at that point of my education but even in grad school I always struggled with minimum page counts because I tend not to pad my writing. So to the degree that I could usefully pull out interesting thematic aspects (or comparisons in handling things between works...things I have on occasion done alright with films), I never did it at sufficient length to really impress. I did do quite well in English classes focused more on non-fiction reading/writing...can more easily expand on that then I ever could with fiction.

Fargo doesn't have a vibrant theatre scene exactly...but it has some stuff. My social network at present isn't very arty...I need a girlfriend or something because going on my own to things feels weird.

Junior

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Re: A Trip Through English Lit
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2014, 09:35:42 AM »
I don't really have much to add to this except that I love this little hymn, especially when I listen to it in Old English:
(Or the audio version here is even better: Norton audio archives)

I had a prof at grad school (I was one of his TA's) who opened a lecture he was giving to an undergrad class by reciting the hymn - totally electrifying and wonderful.

I love hearing this stuff. I, too, had a few professors in college who could say this stuff. More about that later...

And, no, I don't mind at all the talk about other English Lit stuff in here. The Norton Anthologies are really good at giving you a brief(ish) history for context and then going into a little more depth for each work they include. That website is good for hearing some of the things read aloud as well. Coming up later today: The Dream of the Rood and Beowulf!
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