Beowulf An Epic Poem Narrative Poetry Narrative poetry: poetry that tells a story • Epic poetry: a long narrative poem presenting characters of high position (heroic characters) in a series of adventures glorifying the race they represent. The series of adventures forms an organic whole through their relation to a central character of heroic proportions. The epic is characteristically dignified, elevated, and unusually formal in tone. Conventions of Poetry: • Epic poetry: •begins “in medias res” –or “in the middle of things” •invocation of the muse •statement of epic purpose •descriptions of warfare and battle •use of the supernatural Two kinds of Epic poetry • Folk Epic: is so named because it deals with tradition closely associated with the people or “folk” for whom it was written (or told) and whose belief it commanded. Examples: The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf. • Art Epic: Distinctly the work of one single writer, it is supposed to be more sophisticated, more highly idealized, and more consciously moral in purpose than is the folk epic whose form it imitates. The events he/she narrates are in the more remote past. Characteristics of Anglo-Saxons • pessimistic view of life –very serious and practical people • • • • believed in fate were pagans “love of glory” was life motto allegiance to king/lord Characteristics of Anglo-Saxons (cont.) • honored the truth – repression of sentiment • open-handed hospitality Other terms to know... • kenning: a compound metaphorical name for something that replaces a concrete noun. (water street = river) • wyrd or weird: fate or destiny • caesura: a natural pause or break in a line of poetry. Other terms to know... • stock epithet: adjectives used to describe specific traits. • fatalism: belief that all things are submissive to fate. • The Anglo-Saxons were a society full of bleak fatalism. Why do we read Beowulf? • Beowulf is both the first English literary masterpiece and one of the earliest European epics written in the vernacular, or native language, instead of literary Latin. • The vernacular is Old English, but current trends in language suggest that it would be Archaic English. Various representations of Beowulf... Homework / Classwork • Read pages: 30-31 • Read pages: 28-29 – Define: stock epithet – Know all characteristics of an epic (pg. 29) – Take notes on the backside of the handout, and be ready for quiz regarding this information, and information covered in class today!