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Philology 2: Introduction to Old English Language and Literature


Admission requirements



This course focuses on the first centuries of the English language and culture, the period of Old English and Anglo-Saxon England (c.450–c.1100), from which a surprisingly rich literature has come down to us. You will be given a thorough introduction to the Old English language (phonology, morphology, syntax), and you will develop skills in translating short texts in both prose and poetry. In addition, we shall study a variegated selection from Anglo-Saxon literature, partly in Old English and partly in translation, such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a saint’s life by Ælfric, Riddles, and Beowulf. Placing these texts in their cultural historical context also allows us to deal with such topics as the Vikings, the Sutton Hoo ship burial, manuscripts and daily life.

As Old English is the ancestor of Modern English, understanding Old English phonology, morphology and syntax will help you make sense of some of the peculiarities of Modern English, such as the ‘irregular’ plurals of foot (feet) and goose (geese). Hence, this course ties in with some of the Linguistics courses offered by the Bachelor programme English Language and Culture, including Linguistics 1 (phonetics), Linguistics 2 (syntax) and Linguistics 4 (phonology). In addition, this course has some common ground with various Literature courses. Not only because this course will teach you to look critically and precisely at literary texts, but also because modern authors, including W.H. Auden and J.R.R. Tolkien, or J.K. Rowling for that matter, were inspired and influenced by the Old English language and literature.

Course objectives

  • An insight into and understanding of Old English grammar

  • Skills in translation of Old English text

  • Insight into Anglo-Saxon literature, culture and history.


The timetable is available on the BA English website

Mode of instruction

One hour lecture, two-hour seminar.

Course Load

280 hours.

  • hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 39 hours.

  • time for studying the compulsory literature: 158 hours.

  • time to prepare for the exam and/or write a paper (including reading / research): 75 hours.

  • exam: 4 hours

  • Tutoring/opportunity to inspect exam: 4 hours.

Assessment method

A final exam, consisting of two parts:

A) An unseen translation and grammatical questions (30%)
B) Questions on literature, culture and history (40%)

In addition: two grammatical quizzes during the semester (10% each) and one short written assignment (10%)

N.B. The grades for the two grammatical quizzes and the literature essay will only count towards your final mark if the average score of these three elements can be used to raise your final grade. Should this not be the case, the final exam alone will determine your final grade; both parts will then count for 50%.

If the final grade is 5 or less students may take the resit once and the mark of the resit will constitute 100% of the final grade.

Attendance is compulsory. Unauthorized absence will mean that you cannot take part in the relevant exam(s).


Blackboard will be used to provide students with an overview of current affairs, as well as specific information about (components of) the course. Blackboard will be used to provide the students with the weekly syllabus, extra information and a sample test.

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.


Registration via coordinator of studies.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Student administration Van Eyckhof


Students are expected to prepare for the first class. Information about reading and assignments for week 1 is available on Blackboard (enrollment is required).