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Unit information: Old English Language and Literature in 2021/22

Unit name Old English Language and Literature
Unit code ENGL20065
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Kate McClune
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit is an introduction to the language and literature of Anglo-Saxon England. Anglo-Saxon, or Old English, is the form of English that was spoken and written in Britain before about 1100. Unlike later forms of English, which are heavily influenced by French, it is an entirely Germanic language, and it differs from modern English in terms of both its grammatical structure and its vocabulary. Accordingly, the language will be taught from scratch in this unit. Students will be given instruction in the basic elements of Old English grammar, vocabulary and verse form so as to enable them to read a selection of works from the period in the original. These will include some of the major examples of ‘heroic’ verse, such as Beowulf and The Battle of Maldon, as well as elegies and ‘Christian-heroic’ verse such as The Dream of the Rood.

The unit therefore aims to:

  • introduce students to the syntax and vocabulary of the Old English language;
  • introduce students to the literary culture of Anglo Saxon England in its historical and aesthetic contexts;
  • enable students to engage in the close reading of passages of Old English poetry in its original language;
  • foster debate on the reception of the literary culture of the Anglo Saxons in present day society, and the application to it of literary critical methodologies.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. translate examples of Old English poetry into idiomatic modern English with the aid of notes and glossary;
  2. demonstrate understanding of some of the major currents of Anglo Saxon written culture in relation to what can be known of the social, religious and aesthetic contexts of its production;
  3. demonstrate an understanding of the principles of Old English grammar;
  4. identify typical and distinctive features of specific passage of Old English poetry;
  5. demonstrate engagement with the nature and diversity of the reception of Anglo Saxon literature in present day society and criticism.

Teaching Information

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including long- and short-form lectures, group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Information

Formative (completion required for credit points)

  • Completion of grammar exercises in Old English, delivered on-line through Xerte within Blackboard [ILOs 1 and 3]


  • Portfolio of translations, to include at least one passage discussed in class ,and at least one passage not discussed in class (40%) [ILOs 1 and 3]
  • 1 x 2500 word essay (60%) [ILOs 2, 4, 5].


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. ENGL20065).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.