EN2OEL-Introduction to Old English Literature

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: English Part 1 or A-Level (A*, A or B)
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Aisling Byrne

Email: a.byrne@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:


This module introduces students to the period of English literature that is often the most unfamiliar: the Old English or Anglo-Saxon period (c.7th-11th century). Old English literature is richly rewarding, not just because it has been an important influence on many twentieth-century writers (most famousl, J.R.R. Tolkien), but because its literary techniques and themes (female heroes, battles with Vikings, dragons, voyages of exile) are different to much later English literature. This module allows students to explore the literature of a time when England was part of the culture of the North.


This module aims to provide students with an understanding of selected Old English texts. studied in different translations and in parallel Old English and Modern English. No previous knowledge of Old English or of Anglo-Saxon English history is required. It seeks to promote an analytical awareness of some of the main characteristics and themes of Old English poetry, and of the interpretative possibilities and problems raised by the process of translation.

Assessable learning outcomes:

Assessable outcomes By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able to: • demonstrate an understanding of the themes of selected texts studied in translation • develop skills in  textual analysis by comparing  translations of selected text • recognise issues involved in translating Old English texts into Modern English • engage critically with ideas presented in seminars and secondary materials • organize and articulate a cogent argument in written work.

Additional outcomes:
Oral and written communication skills will be developed, together with critical, interpretative and analytical abilities. Students will be encouraged to develop skills of oral communication and effective participation in group work. they will also enhance their IT competence through the use of relevant web resources and databases and the word-processing of assessed work.

Outline content:

The module involves the study of a selection of Old English texts in translation, taken from Old and Middle English c.890-c.1450: An Anthology (Blackwell Anthologies), ed. Elaine Treharne  3rd ed., (Blackwells, 2009). Any other primary texts will be provided in a Supplementary Texts booklet (which will be available to download on Blackboard).

The course is primarily designed as an introduction to the literary study of these texts: translations of the texts will be used and assessments will not demand that students use the Old English Language, but students will be introduced to the dominant characteristics of Old English so that they can understand the major issues in translating these texts. We will examine the stylistic features and themes of a variety of genres, prose and poetry, and attempt to place the texts we study in their literary and historical contexts. 

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

There will be one lecture (lasting 50 minutes) and one seminar (lasting 50 minutes) a week on each week of term, with the exception of week 6 (where there is no scheduled class) and week 11 (where there will only be a lecture, to allow for essay preparation).  Students can also request a one-to-one feedback session on their non-assessed essay with their seminar tutor. With the consent of the module convenor, students may also undertake a placement, through which they will learn how to apply the knowledge and skills gained in studying for this module in a professional context outside the University.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 9 1
Seminars 9
Tutorials 0.5
Practicals classes and workshops 2
Guided independent study 140.5 38
Total hours by term 159.00 41.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Written assignment including essay 50

Other information on summative assessment:
Summative Assessment Methods (%) - work which always contributes towards the overall module mark:

Formative assessment methods:

Formative Assessment Methods - work which provides opportunities to improve performance (e.g. through feedback provided) but which does not necessarily always contribute towards the overall module mark: Students write one formative essay, of approximately 1500 words. Written feedback is provided and the student has the option of requesting a one-to-one tutorial for additional advice. Feeback will also be provided on the assessed essay of 2000-2500 words, or on the equivalent placement report.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of at least 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-examination in August. Coursework will be carried forward if it bears a confirmed mark of 40% or more. Otherwise it must be resubmitted by 25 August.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    1) Required text books: Old and Middle English c.890-c.1450: An Anthology, ed. Elaine Treharne  3rd ed., (Blackwells, 2009). 


    Key Readings List:
    You can view a Key Readings list for this module here: http://readinglists.reading.ac.uk/lists/33510B41-DC6B-E25B-FBE6-53B58B6F477D
    N.B. Reading lists may change before the module starts.

    Last updated: 7 November 2017

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