Art imitates life so the mimetic theory stipulates. By examining the literature a culture produces, we may infer how they
lived and what they valued. By examining these three short poems, we may infer that at least the following ideas / persons
/ beliefs meant a great deal to the Anglo-Saxons...
the mead hall
bliss / pain
the power of narration
Although the Anglo-Saxon might indeed be hard pressed to articulate philosophy, Nussbaum is correct
when noting in Cultivating Humanity that, "Philosophical questioning arises wherever people are." (p.17). Thus we may
ourselves ask what questions they asked about the list that the poetry reflects
Notice that these do not appear in a particular order. What do you believe the Anglo-Saxons valued
as their highest priority. Why? As we study the poems in relation to the research you have completed, what conclusions can
you reach and why?
From the Greeks, we may turn to Heraclitus (540-475 BCE) for clues. Check these sites:
Primary source: Click here for the Fragments of Heraclitus
Click here for a site on the presocratic philosophers
Abrams, M. A. (ed.). The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume I. Seventh edition.
New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 2001
Alexander, Michael. The Earliest English Poems. Baltimore: Penguin Classics, 1969.
Bloom, Harold (ed.). Modern Critical Interpretations: Beowulf. New York: Chelsy House, 1987.
(Contains Tolkien's: Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics).
Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
Gaarder, Jostein. Sophie's World. New York: Berkley Books, 1991.
Gardner, John. Grendel. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.
Greenfield, Stanley. A Critical History of Old English Literature. New York: New York University
Nussbaum, Martha. Cultivating Humanity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.
Wentersdorf, Karl. "The Situation of the Narrator in the Old English WIfe's Lament,"
Speculum Vol. 56. (July, 1981), pp. 492 ff.
Zesmer. David. Guide to English Literature: From Beowulf Through Chaucer and Medieval Drama.
New York; Barnes and Noble, 1965.