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Archive for the ‘English studies’ Category

422px-LindisfarneFol27rIncipitMattOn June 8, 793, Vikings raided the remote abbey of Lindisfarne in Northumbria in the first Viking incursion into England. Alfred and other Anglo-Saxon kings of England were able to battle the invaders with some success, but for almost the next 300 years England, especially the North, was locked in a cycle of invasion, warfare and settlement. The Vikings’ Old Norse was a cousin of Anglo-Saxon and some elements of modern English come from it — for example the personal pronouns they, them, etc., and skirt (a cognate of shirt, from Old English).

The beautifully illuminated Lindisfarne Gospel is among the treasures of medieval art. Shown here is the title page from the Gospel of Matthew. Look carefully and you can make out stylized letters reading:

liber generationis Iesu Christi filii David filii Abraham…

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham…

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J. Buckett's tombstone

J. Buckett's tombstone

In 1972 when I visited the small village of Stockbridge, England (a little northeast of Winchester) I found this tombstone in the church cemetery. It’s a splendid example of a poetic epitaph. They don’t make them like this anymore.

When I went back in 2002 moss had made some of the writing illegible, but based on my notes from 1972, here’s how it reads:

 

In
Memory of
JOHN BUCKETT
many years Landlord of the King’s Head Inn
in this Borough
who departed this life November 20th (?), 1802
Aged 67 Years.

And is alas! poore BUCKETT gone?
Farewell convivial honest JOHN.
Oft at the well by fatal stroke,
Buckets like pitchers must be broke.
In this same motley shifting scene
How various have thy fortunes been!
Now lifted high, now sinking low,
Today thy brim would overflow.
Thy bounty then would all supply,
To fill & drink & leave thee dry.
Tomorrow sunk as in a well,
Content unseen with Truth to dwell.
But high or low or wet or dry,
No rotten stave could malice spy.
Then rise immortal BUCKETT rise,
And claim thy station in the skies.
’Twixt Amphora and Pisces shine,
Still guarding Stockbridge with thy sign. 

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468px-Shakespeare

W. Shakespeare, Gent.

My doctoral area was Anglo-Saxon, but my related area was Renaissance. I don’t see how there could be a better teacher of Shakespeare, though, than in my undergraduate years — George Walton Williams at Duke. I wanted to teach this class in part to honor him. “Themes and Patterns in Shakespeare” was the third class I prepared for Miami University’s Institute for Learning in Retirement. Here’s a PDF of my presentation.

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Vowel chart

Vowel chart

One thing everyone is an expert on is his or her own speech. Just try mispronouncing someone’s name or town and see. But we don’t always know where what we say comes from. My History of English class was the second I prepared for Miami University’s Institute for Learning in Retirement. It’s a kind of follow-up to my earlier Anglo-Saxon England class. Here’s the PDF of my presentation.

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Isti Mirant Stellam

Isti Mirant Stellam

Here’s a link to a presentation prepared for Miami University’s Institute for Learning in Retirement. Anglo-Saxon England was the period of my dissertation at the University of Wisconsin, but after getting into public radio I left teaching behind for several years. A trip to England with friends from Oxford awakened my interest in doing something with a subject I love, so I volunteered to teach for ILR in 2004. Here’s the PDF of my presentations.

The illustration (from Wikipedia Commons) is from a panel in the Bayeux Tapestry, woven by the Normans to celebrate their victory over the Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Those of us who love the period realize that this was as much a disaster as it was a triumph. Be that as it may . . . the tapestry caption reads “ISTI MIRANT STELLAM” (the line over the last A signifies an M), or ‘they wonder at the star.’ The star in this case was Halley’s comet, which appeared in 1066. Comets were frequent portents of dread.

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