Friday, October 23, 2020


Anglo-Saxon Language and Literature

Allen J. Frantzen, Desire for Origins: New Language, Old English, and Teaching the Tradition (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990), p. 2 (note omitted):
Many specialists in modern literatures regard medievalists, and especially Anglo-Saxonists, as "antiquaries," a term used in the past—and often used derisively—to denote those who studied the past for its own sake while willfully neglecting the present. Many modernists doubt that a subject so technical, philological, and remote as Anglo-Saxon still merits a place in the business of the undergraduate or graduate degree. Once again, bad pedagogy comes to mind. Many former doctoral candidates recall their graduate courses in Old English, and courses in Beowulf in particular, as a horror of monotonous grammar drills and tedious translation of words that were to be found only once or twice in a text but that still, for some reason, had to be looked up many times. To make matters worse, presiding over this philological busyness were proponents of a culture typified on the one hand by the machismo of carousing in beer halls, of treasure-giving, longing for exile, or complaining about being in exile, and, on the other hand, of piety and guilt, constant reminders of the need to repent in anticipation of the terrors of the Last Judgment. Thus, Anglo-Saxon language and literature recall both the oppression of philological discipline—translation and memorization—and the vague, violent primitivism that cliché has attached to Anglo-Saxon culture.

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