K’zoo Exeter Book Riddles and Poems I: William Klein

In terms of pedagogy, this was the most helpful panel I attended at Kalamazoo.

The Riddle we can guess
We speedily despise –
Not anything is stale so long
As Yesterday’s surprise –
Emily Dickinson

Can the Riddles Be Translated?
William Klein presented on Riddle #33, the iceberg riddle. But he said it was a storm. My students agree with him. (I give the students six poems and ask them to solve the riddles.)

The most helpful thing in his paper (besides some authority to say storm, which I wasn’t taking for myself) was his handout. I am SO using it in class next week.

He gave us an OE version of Riddle #33 and five different translations.

I am actually going to present this BEFORE the riddle discussion. We are going to read it together. I will read the Old English version and ask five different students to read the translations. I think that will be an interesting approach to the riddle poems, which I usually only concentrate on as riddles.

Of course, part of my plan to take more time on Old and Middle English is to give me time to do things differently.

He also summarized four rules for a valid solution to the riddles. A valid solution:
1. is comprehensive.
2. makes good cultural and historical sense.
3. is philologically exact.
4. has an aesthetic appeal; it is elegant.

I also appreciated his discussion of the riddle poem as the first seven lines introducing the creature and the last set of lines being what the creature says about itself. I never discuss this before the poem because they are always solving the riddle. This time, though, I think it will be relevant earlier on.

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