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Philology 5: Old English Literature and Culture


Admission requirements

Successful completion of Philology 2, or an equivalent introductory course.


This course elaborates on Philology 2 (Introduction to Old English Language and Culture). We read, study and translate a number of literary and non-literary texts in combination with relevant background literature. In doing so, students will acquire a deeper insight into a broad range of aspects of the Anglo-Saxon culture which have not yet, or only cursorily, been studied. Subjects of discussion include feud and reconciliation, hero and/or saint, fact or propaganda, wisdom and ignorance, law and science, the material culture (archeology, visual arts and paleography), orality and literacy.

Course objectives

Students acquire:

  • 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 B.A. thesis on an Old English subject and to follow a course in Old English at the M.A. level.


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website.

Mode of instruction

Two-hour seminar.

Course Load

The course load of this course is 140 hours.

  • time spent on attending weekly classes: 26 hours.

  • time for studying the compulsory literature and making the assignments: 80 hours.

  • time to prepare for the exam and/or write a paper (including reading / research): 34 hours.

Assessment method

  • A final exam, consisting of three parts:

  • An unseen translation (30%)

  • Questions on cultural and historical background (30%)

  • Questions on literature (40%)


This course is supported by blackboard. Blackboard will be used to provide the students with the weekly syllabus, extra information and a sample test. It will also include a discussion board.

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.

  • Godden, Malcolm & Lapidge, Michael (2013). The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature. 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press.

  • Campbell, James (1991). The Anglo-Saxons. Penguin.


Students should register through uSis. Exchange students cannot register through uSis, but must see the coordinator of studies and register with her. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration via Studeren à la carte
Registration via Contractonderwijs


English Language and Culture departmental office, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;
Coordinator of studies: Ms T.D. Obbens, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.


Students are expected to come well prepared to the first class. Information about the work for week 1 is available on Blackboard (enrollment is required).