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Title: The Anglo-Saxon World

Author: Professor Michael D.C. Drout

Published by: The Modern Scholar (10/19/2009)

Audiobook Time: 7 Hours, 50 Minutes

Blurb: Had the Angles and Saxons not purposefully migrated to the isles of the Britons and brought with them their already-well-developed use of language, Angelina Jolie may never have appeared in the movie Beowulf.

Professor Michael D.C. Drout is at his best when lecturing on the fascinating history, language, and societal adaptations of the Anglo-Saxons. He not only presents their storytelling abilities using their own words; he does so in their own voice – the incredibly melodious Old English.

My Take: Professor Drout’s enthusiasm for the Anglo-Saxon age and, in particular, the language of Old English, is infectious. I was so thankful that this course was an audio recording rather than just a written transcript, because to hear him speak in Old English, and to teach these topics that he is so passionate about, is a wonderful blessing. I may never get the chance to be a student of his at Wheaton College, but I will gladly jump on every opportunity I receive to watch or listen to Professor Drout teach on anything Anglo-Saxon, Old English, or Medieval in general.

This course is broken into fourteen lectures:

  1. The Anglo-Saxons and their World
  2. Language and Culture
  3. The Migration and the Germanic Past
  4. The Conversion: The School of Theodore and Hadrian
  5. The “Golden Age” and the Venerable Bede: Double Monasteries, Missionaries, Conversion, and the Making of Beautiful Books
  6. The Viking Age: Destruction and Revival
  7. King Alfred and the Rebuilding: The Rescue and Consolidation of a Kingdom
  8. The Years of Reform
  9. Anglo-Saxon Literature: Religious
  10. Anglo-Saxon Literature: Personal, Wisdom, and Riddles
  11. Anglo-Saxon Literature: Epic and Heroic
  12. The Norman Conquest and the End of Anglo-Saxon England
  13. From the Norman Conquest to the Reformation: The Use of Anglo-Saxon
  14. From Thomas Jefferson to Angelina Jolie: The Long Life of Angl0-Saxon

As you can see from the list, this provides a big, sweeping overview of the time period involved as well as the literature of the period and how Anglo-Saxon interest continued after the end of Anglo-Saxon England. There is so much information packed into these eight hours that it will take several times listening to the lectures to fully absorb all of the information. And, ultimately, this serves as nothing more than an entry point into a rich, immense section of history and literature. Drout jokes several times about Beowulf making its way into just about every lecture (and Tolkien in the few that lack Beowulf references) and he could have easily spent those eight hours (and many more) just talking about Beowulf without doing more than scratching the surface of what could be covered. Yet in spite of its many appearances, and a fair dedication to the poem during the eleventh lecture, I found myself wishing there had been more Beowulf. A lecture on Tolkien and Lewis and their work in Anglo-Saxon (and its influences on them) would have been a nice addition toward the end of the series as well.

Yet this is a perfect entry point to the time period and, on a lesser basis, to the types of literature from that period. Drout never missed an opportunity to recite passages of Old English when it could provide some insight to events or a period of the Anglo-Saxon history. And even if you don’t understand the words in the passage, his masterful command of the language makes you want to understand it better rather than a part where you tune out until he gets back to something you can understand.

One of the best gems came early in the series in the form of an acronym to help (roughly) remember the major time periods being covered: MCGVR. And if you look at lectures 3-7, those all tie in nicely with that little acronym and he provides some round numbers for dates to work with that, even if a little inaccurate, helps to narrow down the century in question. I also liked how he chose not to end with the Norman Conquest, nor with coverage of the literature, but rather how Anglo-Saxon and its use has continued up to the present day.

Overall, I cannot help but count this as the best possible use that I could have found for my one free trial credit on Audible. If I had a second free credit, I would not hesitate to spend it on another course by Professor Drout after listening to this one. It will remain active on my tablet for the foreseeable future, and I am in the process of printing off the companion course guide and building a binder to refer back to frequently as I pursue my own study into the Anglo-Saxon age and literature.