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In accordance with our meta agreement to have topic challenges and a later meta agreement to have topic challenges lasting for two months and overlapping by one month, it is time to announce the June–July 2021 topic challenge.

Based on the number of votes in the proposals thread (+7), the sixth topic challenge fully in 2021 will be a whole dead language's worth of literature:

Old English literature and its Afterlife.


What's a topic challenge?

See the meta posts linked above, and also this main meta post. In short, during June–July 2021 we should all try to read some literature that was originally written in Old English.

Participation is not obligatory in any sense, but those who participate will be forever remembered in the annals of our history. And of course it goes without saying that questions about other works are more than welcome during those months too; they just won't count as part of this topic challenge.

How can I take part?

By getting hold of any work of Old English literature, translated into any language you like, and asking good questions about it. These questions should be tagged with (we seemed to agree on that), and story/author tags if appropriate. We'll keep a list of all such questions in an answer to this meta post.

Below is verbose's original presentation of this topic challenge (slightly truncated), which contains some useful links:

Old English literature, too, continues to make its presence felt in contemporary culture. For example, there are several graphic novels that retell the most famous (and longest) Old English poem, Beowulf. Literary works such as Headley's The Mere Wife and Gardner's Grendel retell the story. There's even an opera. Old English scholarship informs Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings as well.

Since Old English texts predate copyright laws, they're easily available online. The entire corpus of Old English poetry is available at the Sacred Texts site. Translations of nearly all these poems are available at Aaron K. Hostetter's site; spoken versions of the poems are at Michael D C Drout's site. Prose texts such as the Old English translation of Bede's Ecclesiastical History are also available online, in the original, in translation, and in scholarly monographs. The In Parentheses site has some translations as well. Finally, there's a handy site for those who care to learn the language.

Old English Literature has been discussed on this forum about four times or so, not counting the many passing mentions the language receives in various Tolkien-related questions. A Topic Challenge could encompass not only the original Anglo-Saxon texts (in the original and/or in translation) but also their afterlife in popular culture, such as the Beowulf comics, Tolkien's books, other novels, etc. Questions about the continuities and discontinuities between Old English and Middle English literature, or the relationship between Norse mythology and Old English texts, would also be relevant to this topic.

What's next?

  • Vote here for the next topic challenge, or propose your own in an answer there!
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List of all questions posted in this topic challenge

  1. What is a "roomy heart"? by bobble, 04/06/2021 (9 upvotes, 1 answer, HNQ).
  2. How does "handwriting" provide evidence for dating Beowulf's composition to "the first half of the eighth century"? by bobble, 05/07/2021 (7 upvotes, no answer).
  3. What is the significance of Grendel being descended from Cain? by Rand al'Thor, 18/07/2021 (7 upvotes, no answer).
  4. Modern English versions of Wonders/Marvels of the East from the Nowell Codex by Rand al'Thor, 29/07/2021 (2 upvotes, no answer).
  5. What is known, and how, about the dating of the Exeter Book? by Rand al'Thor, 30/07/2021 (1 upvote, no answer).
  6. What are we to understand by "panther" in this Old English poem? by Rand al'Thor, 31/07/2021 (no upvotes, no answers before the end of July).

The highest-voted and most viewed of these is What is a "roomy heart"? (HNQ), with a score of 9 and approximately 675 views at the end of July.

Only one question received an answer before the end of July.

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