Graduate Seminar: John D. Niles

John D. Niles, University of Wisconsin-Madison
John D. Niles, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Center for Renaissance Studies Programs
Graduate Seminar
Friday, January 7, 2005 to Friday, March 11, 2005

The Anglo-Saxon Seminar: The Discovery and Invention of Old English Literature

John D. Niles, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The title of the seminar plays on the Latin word inventio, a term whose meaning ranges from “discovery” to “invention.”  During the first two-thirds of each seminar meeting students translated (and to some extent “discovering”) Old English texts with precise attention to their grammar, style, lexicon, and thematic content.  During the rest of each meeting students looked at rare books in which those texts were first presented to a post-medieval reading public, thereby promoting their discovery by an unintended audience while also inventing them as modern artifacts.  Early editions drawn from the Special Collections of the Newberry Library will be compared with current scholarly editions so as to reveal the underlying assumptions on both sides.

 Each meeting was devoted to a different type of text.  Students started with prose excerpts from the Old English Gospels, the writings of Aelfric, the Old English version of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, the Old English law codes, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.   Later they turned their attention to poetic texts, including selections from the Junius Manuscript, the Exeter Book, and Beowulf, still comparing current editions of those texts with early ones.   As time permits, they took a look at early dictionaries and grammars of Old English.  The point of the seminar will be to develop students’ reading knowledge of Old English while at the same time sharpening their awareness of the degree to which Old English literature, as it has been presented to the modern reading public, is the creation of successive generations of scholars building on one another’s work.

Participants: Andrew Bonvicini, Loyola University Chicago; Christine Brovelli, Northern Illinois University; Trevor Coe, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Lorraine Eadie, Loyola University Chicago; Mary Louise Fellows, University of Minnesota; Jodi Haraldson-Noonan, University of Chicago; Andrew Higl, Loyola University Chicago; Katie Lynch, University of Wisconsin-Madision; Patrick Murphy, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Erik Vorhes, Loyola University Chicago

Learn more about Center for Renaissance Studies programs for graduate students.