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The Epic Course: A Pre-Modern Genre and its digital disclosure


Admission requirements

Students from the MA Literary Studies and the ResMA Arts, Literature and Media are welcome. Students from other programs are welcome to apply.

Note: students do not need any additional language skills to take this course, but will have the opportunity to explore other languages if desired.


The epic genre is wide-ranging; it encompasses not only the heroic tales of figures such as Charlemagne and King Arthur, but also modern sagas such as Star Wars. This course is focused on exploring the pre-modern roots of this important genre. In the medieval and Early Modern periods, epic writing moved across media, and had a large impact on visual culture. The medieval epic also had an exceptional transnational appeal. In the wake of a ‘new’ courtly noble culture that arose in France, texts celebrating feats of chivalry soon became the hallmark of worldly literature across various vernaculars in Europe. Centred mostly around the historical core of Charlemagne and his peers or the legendary king Arthur, epic texts appealed both to a noble and an urban audience, and were immensely popular in the late middle ages. This popularity is also reflected in visual and material culture. In later centuries, the genre continued to thrive, both in manuscript and in print, and some of the medieval stories continue to influence the popular imagination to this day.

This multilingual, comparative course aims to raise awareness among students of the transregional and transmedial nature of pre-modern European literature through an exploration of the epic genre. Students in this course will learn more about some of the foundational epic texts in Latin, French, English, German, Dutch and Italian. They will be introduced to various aspects of the genre and how these differ (or turn out to be similar) across various vernaculars, media, and time periods. They are also invited to reflect upon the interplay between epic literature and visual culture. In so doing, students will gain insight into the diachronic, transcultural and transmedial evolution of the epic genre.

Students will use the knowledge they gain through this exploration to work on a short digital edition of an epic text fragment in the language of their choice, which may be shared with the broader scholarly community. Through these activities, they develop key transferable skills such as writing for digital environments.

Course objectives

  • Thorough knowledge and insight into the studied literary texts, as well as their historical, medial, and cultural context.

  • Possess and apply knowledge and insight into the studied theories on editing historical texts.

  • The ability to edit historical texts in digital media while applying knowledge of theories on digital scholarly editing.

  • The ability to do independent research in this field, making use of literary theory and secondary literature.

  • Ability to present one’s findings in an oral presentation and written assignments.

  • Ability to share analytical and theoretical arguments during class discussion.

  • Ability to receive and provide feedback on one’s work and accordingly improve one’s work.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

Assessment method


  • Reading assignments with final reflection;

  • Edition project (transcription + introduction + presentation);

  • Research MA students will have to write an extra 2500 word paper on a topic to be decided in consultation with the tutor.
    Students are expected to attend all classes and to prepare them by accomplishing the reading assignments.


  • Reading assignment with final essay or podcast: 30%.

  • Edition project: 70% = draft transcription (10%, in pairs); final transcription (20%, in pairs); oral presentation (10 %, in pairs); introduction (30%, individual).


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the student will have to consult with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Practical information and course materials will be provided via Brightspace.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturers listed in the right information bar:

Bram Caers: Dutch | Emma Grootveld: Italian & coordination | Alisa van de Haar: French | Elisabet Meyer: German | Krista Murchison: English | Irene O’Daly: Latin & coordination

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal