EN5609 Old English Riddles
Jennifer Neville, Department of English
1. To be taught at Royal Holloway, Egham,
on Wednesdays 3-5pm
appear to have been especially appealing to the Anglo-Saxons: not only is there
a collection of almost 100 riddles in Old English; there are also three
collections of Latin riddles written by Anglo-Saxons. Although frequently
amusing and insightful in themselves, these riddles also open a window onto
areas of Anglo-Saxon life rarely mentioned in other Old English poetic texts:
slaves, drunkenness, farming, everyday artefacts, sexuality, humour, etc.
texts on this course can be studied in Old English or in translation, depending
on the students’ prior knowledge of Old English, and can be approached using
literary, historical, or archaeological contexts. Classes will focus on a large theme (e.g.
heroic culture, religion, sexuality, etc) each week. Students are advised to purchase their own
copy of the riddles for their use. John
Porter, ed., Anglo-Saxon Riddles
(Hockwold-cum-Wilton: Anglo-Saxon Books, 1995) is recent, easily available
online from Anglo-Saxon Books (http://www.asbooks.co.uk/index.htm), and
provides the Old English text with a facing page translation.
Hunter Blair, Anglo-Saxon England,
rev. edn. (London : The Folio Society, 1997)
Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of
the Exeter Book
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977)
D. Niles, Old English Enigmatic Poems and
the Play of the Texts (Turnhout: Brepols, 2006).