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Philology 5A: Old English Literature and Culture


Admission requirements

Completion of Philology 2 or comparable course.


This course elaborates on Philology 2. Students read, study, translate and discuss a number of literary and non-literary texts from early medieval England in combination with background literature. In doing so, students will acquire a deeper insight into a broad range of aspects of the Anglo-Saxon culture which has not yet, or only cursorily, been studied. Subject of discussion includes feuding and reconciliation, law codes, hero and/or saint, fact or propaganda, the material culture (archeology and paleography), orality and literacy. We will also pay attention to cultural productions of the Vikings (e.g., Old Norse sagas) as well as modern adaptations and appropriations of Old English literature (e.g., Beowulf movies and modern takes on Old English poetry). The course will include working with original materials as well as modern digital techniques to study the literature, language and culture of early medieval England as well as its reception in later periods.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students will have:

  • thorough knowledge of the highlights of Old English literature (prose and poetry) and of the relevant cultural history of Anglo-Saxon England;

  • familiarity of the various genres and methods of interpretation;

  • proficiency in translating Old English at an advanced level.

Successful completion of the course will enable the student to write a BA paper on an Old English subject and to follow a course in Old English at the MA level.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Two-hour seminar

Assessment method


  • A 2-hour written exam, with a translation, short open questions and an essay question

  • A group vlog

  • A short composition in Old English

  • A research essay of 1,500-2,000 words

Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than two tutorials means that students will be excluded from the tutorials. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared, not participating and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.


  • A 2-hour written exam: 50%

  • A group vlog: 20%

  • A short composition in Old English: 5%

  • Essay: 25%


When the final grade is 5.49 or lower, the exam will have to be retaken during the resit period. There are no resits for the group vlog, short composition and essay.

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

  • Baker, Peter (2012). Introduction to Old English. 3rd edn. Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Treharne, Elaine (2009). Old and Middle English c.890–c.1400: An Anthology. 3rd edn. Blackwell.

  • Richard North & Joe Allard, eds. (2011). Beowulf and Other Stories: A New Introduction to Old English, Old Icelandic and Anglo-Norman Literatures. 2nd edn. Routledge.


Enrolment through My Studymap (Login | Universiteit Leiden) is mandatory.

General information about MyStudyMap is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of À la carte education (without taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of Contract teaching (with taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Student administration Arsenaal


Not applicable.