Welcome to the Readings in Poetry page for the Advanced Old English Series in which students explore, in alternating months, a work of prose and then a work of poetry to introduce students to the breadth and depth of Old English texts available for study. Each month Dr. Swain surveys the group to see what they want to tackle next from month to month.
For this month's module we will explore Cynewulf's Juliana. In Early Medieval English literature, there are only two poets writing in Old English whose names we know: (1) Caedmon (technically he didn't know how to write, others wrote for him copying his oral compositions---almost all of which is now lost to us); and (2) Cynewulf. Little is known of Cynewulf other than he had monastic training and was likely a monk. It is debated as to whether he was an eighth, ninth, or tenth century writer. Previously we had a module that worked with his poem known as "Christ II" by modern scholars and with "Fates of the Apostles". This module will work with his translation and adaptation of an early Christian saint's life, The Life of St Juliana, a virgin saint who sacrificed her life for the faith so as not to marry a pagan Roman. Great stuff occurs in this tale!
Required Text: The Old English Poems of Cynewulf, edited by and translated by Robert E. Bjork.