What are some characteristics of the Anglo-Saxon period?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Literature of the Anglo-Saxon period differs from the literature of more modern periods. If the poetry of the Renaissance and later eras relies on rhyme, the literature of the Anglo-Saxon period rests on such poetic devices as kenning and alliteration.

A kenning is joining two words together to describe an object or idea in a poetic way. It has been sometimes called a condensed metaphor. A kenning is a striking or unusual way to describe an object, and it may stop us in our tracks. We may say, "I never thought about that object in that way before." Therefore, it can lead us to see the world in a new way, which is one of the objects of literature. An example of a kenning from Beowulf, the great epic Anglo-Saxon poem, is using the words "battle sweat" to mean blood. Another example from Beowulf is calling the sea the "sail road."

Anglo-Saxon relied on creating rhythm and composing memorable verse (important in societies with low literacy rates) through using alliteration. Alliteration is putting together a series of words that begin with the same consonant close to one another. Beowulf uses alliteration in almost every line. One example would be the repeated "s" in line 130: "the storied leader, sat stricken."

In the twentieth-century, kennings became popular again as poets began to appreciate the rugged economy of Anglo-Saxon verse.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial