OPENING LECTURE ENGLISH 4610
One question this course seeks to answer is What is a hero? Joseph Campbell contends that every hero undertakes a journey that resembles that of all other heroes. He then tells us about the journey of the hero.
Our challenge in our readings is to perceive the qualities in a hero within a culture that we do not understand because it is so long ago or far away. Reading about Old and Middle English heroes like Beowulf or the the leader in the Battle of Maldon or Gawain or King Arthur is difficult because they do not have the same values we do. It is like reading the Power and the Glory if one is not LDS or The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings if one is not Christian or Father Dowling or Brother Cadfield mysteries if one is not Catholic. One understands the plot but not the attitudes of the characters toward different events. (Can you think of other fiction that one understands better if one has certain background?)
To get at certain attitudes and values that underlie the readings we will do first, I have linked the Consolation of Philosophy by the ancient philosopher Boethius to this site. You can print it from your computer or just read it on the computer, but do not get out of joint if you do not understand it that well on the first reading. You might do well to read only Books 4 and 5.
Boethius was a 5th century philosopher and statesman. Due to what was probably political enmity, he was accused of betraying his emperor and thrown into prison. He wrote his Consolation while in jail and shortly thereafter was tortured and executed. His work had enormous influence on English women and men from the 9th century through the Reformation (1534).
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