Monday, June 6, 2011

Anglo-Saxon Literature

The Anglo-Saxon literature, which may also be called Old English literature, is a collection of manuscripts that were written during the 600 years that the Anglo-Saxons were present in Great Britain. This period lasted from the 5th century until the conquest by the Normans in 1066. Anglo-Saxon literature is comprised of things such as Bible translations, poetry, and sermons. In addition to these, riddles and chronicles can be found as well. There are only about 400 manuscripts available which have survived to the present day. One of the most famous examples of Anglo-Saxon literature is Beowulf. In addition to its popularity in Great Britain, this literary work has become popular internationally as well.

The oldest example of Anglo-Saxon literature is Caedmon's Hymn. It was written during the 7th century. Many historians have spent a great deal of time researching these documents. One important document that gives us a glimpse of Anglo-Saxon history is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The research on this form of literature has gone through a number of different stages. During much of the 20th century, researchers spent a lot of time reviewing the Germanic origins of these documents. Much of the research today focuses on studying the physical material that comprises the manuscripts. Historians are now more interested in who wrote them, as well as the date of their creation and their connections with European culture during this time.
The vast majority of Anglo-Saxon literature was written during the last 300 years that this group was present in the region. It should be noted that Old English literature is one of the oldest to survive until the present day. One of the reasons why Anglo-Saxon literature became so important is because of constant invasions into the country. The monks wanted to make sure that the population was literate in Latin so that the works of the church could be read. King Alfred was also interested in making sure the population was properly educated. He wanted the students in the country to learn Old English. The students who were successful in learning Old English would often go on to learn Latin.
Evidence of this is prominent in many surviving manuscripts, since many of them are student related training manuals. Of the 400 Anglo-Saxon literary works that have survived to the present day, over 170 of them are considered to be extremely important. These documents are sought after, and collectors have obtained them since the 16th century.


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