nl en

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 approach the course coordinators for admission, but this will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

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 a European context. 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 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, along with different approaches to these texts that have been developed over time. 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 material 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 edition of an epic text excerpt in the language of their choice, suitable for a digital environment. Through this and other assigments they develop key transferable skills such as writing for digital environments, oral presentation skills, and the capacity to evaluate critically a range of scholarly approaches to a cultural phenomenon.

Course objectives

  • Obtain knowledge and insight into the prescribed literary texts, as well as their historical, material, and cultural contexts and characteristics.

  • Possess and apply knowledge and insight into the theories and methods of editing historical texts, including those relevant to digital environments.

  • 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 in 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 assignment (essay);

  • Edition project (transcription + introduction + presentation);
    Students are expected to attend all classes and to prepare for them by accomplishing the assigned readings.


  • Reading assignment (essay): 30%.

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


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the student will have to consult with the instructor to arrange a resit. In addition to receiving a sufficient overall mark (6.0 or above), students must receive at least a sufficient grade (6.0) in the principal written assignments ('reading assignment', 'edition project: introduction') in order to pass the course. The presentation component cannot be resit.

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 MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website

Registration À la carte education, Contract teaching and Exchange

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 the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


  • 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