Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ancient Greek and Homeric Singing

Like the Old English spot (or poet), reciting the tale of the great Geat hero Beowulf in song, accompanied by a harp, the bards of Ancient Greece, such as Demodokus the blind, would sing the epic poems for the entertainment of their audiences.
What Demodokus might have sounded like as he sang the story of Ares and Aphrodite to Odysseus and the Phaeacians.

A reading of the opening lines of The Odyssey on YouTube. See if you can read along using the text in Ancient Greek and the pronunciation key I gave you.

Check out this website for a range of classical Greek and Roman texts in the original language. It's pretty sweet: you can actually click on individual words to learn what part of speech they are; what gender they are (masculine, feminine, or neuter), what their grammatical function is, how to pronounce them according to latinic script (our letters), as well as what they mean. Check it out:
The Perseus Project

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beowulf and the Oral Tradition

Hi folks,
In the reading due yesterday, we read that after Beowulf defeats Grendel and the Danes and the Geats begin to celebrate, a poet in Hrothgar's court starts to put Beowulf's heroics to verse. He begins by reciting the exploits of another hero, Sigimund, and his battle with a dragon ("wyrm" in Old English). This is an example of oral storytelling and could perhaps be the story-within-a-story hinting to how the epic of Beowulf got its start. In the times of Old English, a poet, called a "scop", would tell long, elaborate tales, entirely from memory and often with the aid of a harp. Imagine sitting around a fire, drinking mead with your friends, as local scop tells the harrowing tale of Grendel. Remember, this was a time when there was no other media by which to lose yourself, so storytelling was a very intimate and communal form of entertainment as well as education. You can imagine how popular the tale was that after a time someone skilled in writing putting down in letters and captured it forever. Had Beowulf not been written down, we might not have been able to enjoy this story.
Here's Benjamin Bagby performing the epic of Beowulf the way it would have been over a thousand years ago:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Maps for Beowulf and Old English audio

Audio Files of Beowulf read in the original Old English

Map showing the migration of the Germanic tribes--Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians to England. Their arrival sparked the development of Old English from which Modern English, which we speak today, developed. The story of Beowulf involves two other Germanic tribes--the Danes and the Geats. The tale was likely transmitted orally until it reached England where it was eventually written down in Old English.

Map of the Tribes in Beowulf. This is modern day Denmark and Sweden.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Melvyn Bragg's The Adventure of English

A History Channel special based on Bragg's popular book. The second video has a great segment with Seamus Heaney, the author of your translation of Beowulf. We'll check out a lot of wonderful multimedia files in our discussion of the development of the English language through Beowulf, Chaucer, and Shakespeare.





Monday, March 22, 2010

Audio versions of Short Stories Online

There are some great audio versions of classic short stories online. Check them out at Chicago Public Radio online.
You will need Real Player to listen to them.
There's even one for Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery". Just follow the link.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Film Trailer: The Wind that Shakes the Barley

The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a film about the Irish War for Independence and the subsequent civil war, directed by Ken Loach. Check out the trailer below.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Historical Setting of O'Flaherty's "The Sniper": The Irish Civil War, 1922-1923.

Footage of fighting in Dublin during the Irish Civil War, June 1922 to May 1923. It followed the War for Independence against England, 1919-1921. The author of "The Sniper," Liam O'Flaherty was a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Civil War. The bombardment and eventual destruction of the Four Courts building in Dublin, in which the IRA had holed up, sealed the defeat of the IRA by the Free Staters, those in favor of a compromise with England. The Free Staters won, and Ireland did not gain full independence until 1949, over 20 years later. After you read the story, meditate on what you believe is the central message of "The Sniper".