Literary Lab 1: Reading for Style in Old English Poetry

This lab uses the definition, style, and characteristics of epic as described in the Wikipedia entry for epic poetry(opens in new window) and in Six Elements of the Epic(opens in new window). Begin by reviewing these pages.


As a technical literary term, “style” describes the compositional habits that shape texts and give them a unity of feel or texture. Style can be broken down into many components: diction, level, syntax, grammar, ornament, and more. Rhetorical theory advises that the style suit the matter. This first reading exercise approaches Old English poetry through a focus on grammatical style. In poetry, the weight of meaning can be distributed variously over the elements of grammar. Does the Beowulf poet stress things and qualities, or actions? Nouns and adjectives, or verbs and adverbs? Do you identify characters in the poem interacting with (and being identified by) these grammatical choices?

Compose a 3-4 page, double-spaced, response to the questions of style for Beowulf.

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