15 Topics You Can Explore In An Old English Literature Essay


The history of the English language and the literature created in it is inseparably connected to the country's history. Old English literature was being created during the period between VI and XI centuries, which was one of the most significant for the British nation. The foundation for the Anglo-Saxon state was laid and the English language was born at that time. Choosing a topic for an essay concerning the literature of Old English period is not easy. You'll have to analyze literary works that appeared many centuries ago and have certain peculiarities.

The Two Main Problems to Cope with

Choosing a topic for an Old English literature essay, you should be ready to meet certain challenges:

  • You should be well aware of historical events of the period under investigation. Wars led by native tribes, foreign invasions of Germanic tribes and Normans, and adoption of Christianity were among the main. These events were reflected in the poetry and prose.
  • You will have to cope with numerous linguistic problems beginning with Old English lexicon and ending with the peculiarities of style. Get acquainted with the most prominent works before you make a decision as to the topic of your essay.

Here is the list of original topics for an essay in Old English literature based on the most prominent pieces of poetry and prose:

  1. Old English wisdom literature: charms, riddles, maxims, and proverbs.
  2. “Beowulf” as an example of a heroic epic poem.
  3. Stylistic devices – epithets, metaphors, repetitions, and contrasts – in the poem “Beowulf”.
  4. Glorification of moral values in the poem “Beowulf”: the conflict between good and evil.
  5. The contribution of poets Caedmon and Cynewulf to Old English literature.
  6. “The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles” as the best-known historical record of the Old English history.
  7. The foundation of the written English language in King Alfred's works on religion, history, and philosophy.
  8. Kenning as a stylistic feature in the heroic poetry.
  9. “The Wanderer” – a poetic description of spiritual growth from pagan to Christianity.
  10. The analysis of the characteristic features of Old English poetry in J.R.R.Tolkien's literary study “On Translation of Beowulf”.
  11. The themes of war and bravery in the poems “The Battle of Maldon” and “The Battle of Brunanburh”.
  12. Poetic narrative versions of biblical parables in Old English literature.
  13. Caedmon as a religious writer.
  14. Bede Venerable and his contribution to English literature.
  15. Historical events connected with spreading Christianity in Cynewulf`s poems.

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