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The Epic Course: A Pre-Modern Genre in the Modern Digital Realm


Admission requirements

Bachelor French, English, Italian, German, or Dutch Language and Literature.
Students from other tracks of Literary Studies or Media Studies are welcome. Students from other programs are welcome to apply.


Note: students in a literary studies programme 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 arguably 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 borders, and in order to fully explore this aspect of the genre, this course will take a transregional and multilingual approach.

Students will learn from, and work alongside, scholars and graduate students in different literary studies tracks to explore some of the most foundational epic texts in French, English, German, Dutch and Italian. Students will work in their own study language and do not need any further language skills for success in the course, but they will have the optional opportunity to practice working in other languages if desired. In so doing, students will gain insight into the diachronic, transcultural and transmedial evolution of the epic genre. As a final assignment, each student will develop a short digital edition of an epic text, which will be shared with the broader scholarly community.

The Medieval epic 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. In later centuries, the genre continued to thrive, either in manuscript or 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 literary students across modern languages of the essentially transnational, multilingual nature of pre-modern European literature through this exploration of the epic genre. Students will be introduced to various aspects of the genre and how these differ (or turn out to be similar) across various vernaculars and time periods. Students will use the knowledge they gain through this exploration to work on a scholarly edition of (part of) an epic text in the language of their choice and, in so doing, develop key 21st century skills such as the creation of publications and writing for digital environments.

Course objectives

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

  • Research MA students should reveal in their coursework a more nuanced understanding of the complex relationship between social formations and cultural productions by means of a more detailed and thorough theoretical/methodological framework.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

Assessment method


  • participation

  • oral presentation

  • edition

  • Research MA students will have to write an extra 3000 word paper on a topic to be decided in consultation with the tutor


  • participation 10%

  • oral presentation 10 %

  • edition 80% of which 10% is a transcription, 20% is an introduction, and 50% is the final polished edition project

The average of the three components should be sufficient.


Resit: only for the edition.

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

Brightspace will be used for: practical information and course materials.


This has to be filled out by the key-user of the department.
Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.
Not applicable.


Alisa van de Haar (French), coordinators of the course Emma Grootveld (Italian) Bram Caers (Dutch) Krista Murchison (English) Johannes Müller (German)

Student administration: Arsenaal
Coordinator of studies: ms. Mr.drs. P.C. Lai