New media, multimedia, and networked knowledge are key concepts in scholarship today yet the dynamic and multivalent transmission of texts is a feature of textual environments from the earliest periods.  The remediation of oral poetry in manuscript form began our discussion of cusp moments in the history of textual transmission.

The movement of narrative modes from orality to literacy was charted in the early texts of the course,  principally “Caedmon’s Hymn“;  that primary orality was then traced to the migration-age narrative, the epic Beowulf.

We then looked also at Ibn Fadlan’s Risala and at how the modern author Michael Crichton amalgamated the Risala‘s view of the Rus with the Beowulf narrative for the novel  Eaters of the Dead later the film The Thirteenth Warrior, by director John McTiernan.

The key concept of kingship was examined in the context of Beowulf, and the ubi sunt motif of “The Wanderer“, faithfully reenacted in Tolkien’s The Two Towers.  We watched Peter Jackson’s film version – where king Theoden speaks the words “Where is the horse and the rider?”

Later we looked at the evolution of the Robin Hood narrative from earlier tales such as “The Tale of Gamelyn” and “An Outlaw’s Song of Trailbaston“, and the early tale of “Robin Hood and the Monk.”  There we explored how the modern rescension of the narrative is vey much an amalgam of folklore and romance tropes, myths and symbols ranging from the green man to the outlaw.

The final part of the course looked at the construction of historical narrative.  We looked at Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur and his  sources.


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