This course will cover the riddles of the Exeter Book (in Old English
and in translation). Riddles 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. Studying these riddles thus provides us with clues regarding
obscure areas like literary taste. More importantly, however, these riddles
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.
Type of Course: half unit MA option
Course Leader: Dr Jennifer Neville
Scope of the Course:
Old English Riddles, both in the original and in translation, with some
reference to the Anglo-Latin riddling tradition, the context of the Exeter
Book, and Wisdom Literature in general
Aims of the Course:
- to introduce the Anglo-Saxon riddling tradition
- to deepen knowledge of the Old English poetic tradition, particularly
as exemplified by the Exeter Book Riddles
- to provide new and unusual perspectives on Anglo-Saxon culture and literature
- in-depth knowledge of the Exeter Book Riddles
- increased sophistication in approach to the Old English poetic tradition
- advanced understanding of the theories pertaining to riddles and their
application to the Exeter Book Riddles
- increased skill in argument, synthesis, abstract thought, and critical
engagement with texts
Teaching and Learning Methods:
- weekly, two-hour seminars
- oral presentations
- one coursework essay of 2000-3000 words
You should expect to spend approximately 9 hours per week in preparation
for this course.
- written commentary on coursework essays, followed by consultations
- written commentary on oral presentations, followed by consultations
Method of Assessment:
- one essay of 5000 words
- essays should demonstrate detailed knowledge of the texts; they should
be carefully organised and edited, using the approved format for footnotes
and bibliography; they should propose and support their own argument
- see also the assessment criteria in the Medieval MA Handbook
There is no textbook for this course. The primary texts (in Old English)
are supplied at the end of the course booklet.
You should consult a range of editions, translations, and critical works.
Suggestions for reading can be found in the Bibliography in the course
Williamson, Craig, ed.,
The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977).
Wyatt, A. J., ed.,
Old English Riddles (Boston and London: D.C.
Tupper, Frederick, Jr, The Riddles of the Exeter Book (Boston,
New York, Chicago, and London: Ginn, 1910).
Porter, John, ed.and trans., Anglo-Saxon Riddles (Hockwold-cum-Wilton: Anglo-Saxon Books, 1995). [note: this is a handy but unscholarly source]
Niles, John D., Old English Enigmatic Poems and the Play of the Texts (Turnhout: Brepols, 2006).