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Heroes and Saints: Old English Epic Tradition: graded paper

Class at Faculty of Arts |



The course will examine a range of Old English narrative poems. Starting with texts which can be broadly defined as secular, we will look at the variety of approaches and agendas which these texts represent and explore the ways in which the concept of an underlying heroic poetic tradition is constructed from the limited extant material.

Religious epic will then be discussed in terms of its relation to models encountered in the secular poems. We will concentrate especially on the presentation of the protagonist and his/her spiritual progress as well as on the order of the world which the texts construct. Ultimately, the course should offer students a deeper insight into the problems which shape our study and understanding of Old English poetry in general.

MATERIAL selections from:

The Finnsburh Fragment

The Battle of Maldon

The Battle of Brunanburh


Genesis B

Felix: Vita Sancti Guthlaci (in English)

Guthlac A, B


A selection of critical reading will be posted in Moodle. Primary texts will be provided with an interlinear gloss and grammatical apparatus as well as translation for convenience, but an elementary working knowledge of Old

English (e.g. the basic paradigms), and a willingness to look beyond the translation to the original is requisite for a fair treatment and discussion of the texts.


Students are expected to give one oral presentation and submit a paper of 2,500 words for a credit. An essay of 5,000 words should be submitted as a graded paper. Active participation is of the essence.

Study programmes