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Unit information: Old English Language and Literature in 2020/21

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
Pre-requisites

None

Co-requisites

None

School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description

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 aims to:
1) introduce students to the syntax and vocabulary of the Old English language;
2) introduce students to the literary culture of Anglo Saxon England in its historical and aesthetic contexts;
3) enable students to engage in the close reading of passages of Old English poetry in its original language;
(4) 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 details

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 Details

*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 2000 word essay (60%) [ILOs 2, 4, 5].
  • Completion of grammar exercises in Old English, delivered on-line through Xerte within Blackboard, as a requirement for the award of credit points in this unit (formative) [ILOs 1 and 3]

Reading and References

Peter S. Baker, Introduction to Old English 3rd edition (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007)

M. Atherton, Teach Yourself Old English (London, 2006). Includes Audio CD.

Murray McGillivray’s Old English Course: on-line learning at http://www.ucalgary.ca/UofC/eduweb/engl401/lessons/index.htm

Bruce Mitchell, An Invitation to Old English and Anglo Saxon England (Oxford, 1995)

B. Mitchell and F. C. Robinson, A Guide to Old English, 6th edn (Oxford, 2001)

George Jack (ed.), Beowulf: A Student Edition (Oxford, 1994)

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