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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 timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

One hour lecture, two-hour seminar.

Assessment method


  • 1) A 3-hour written exam, with a translation, short open questions and essay questions.

  • 2) two grammatical quizzes during the semester and one short written assignment


Element 1) 70%
Element 2) 30%

N.B. The grades for the two grammatical quizzes and the written assignment 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, for 100%.


When the final grade is 5.49 or lower, the exam will have to be retaken during the resit period. There is no resit for the grammatical quizzes and the written assignment.


Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than two tutorials means that students will be excluded from the tutorials. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared, not participating and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Baker, Peter (2012). Introduction to Old English. 3rd edn. Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Richard North, Joe Allard and Patricia Gillies, eds. (2011). Longman Anthology of Old English, Old Icelandic, and Anglo-Norman Literatures. Routledge.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

NB: First year students will be enrolled by the coordinator of studies. All other students need to contact the coordinator of studies to be enrolled for this course.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs



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