Accessibility statement

England in Europe: Literary Culture: from Alfred the Great to Ælfric - ENG00011M

« Back to module search

  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Elizabeth Tyler
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2021-22

Module aims

This module looks at the literary culture (especially poetry and history-writing) of England from King Alfred the Great (d. 899) to Ælfric of Eynsham (d. c.1010) and Wulfstan (d. c 1023): the period when the West Saxon dynasty forged a single English kingdom, from previously separate English kingdoms, and from areas of Britain which had been controlled by Scandinavian settlers (Vikings) and the British (Welsh).

The module situates the writing of the vernacular within the context of the dynamic exchange between monastic, clerical and lay elites, all of whom moved in social networks that were distinctly multilingual, with strong ties to Francia, the wider insular world and Scandinavia and a keen interest in Europe, Asia and North Africa. Focusing on literary form (poetics, history-writing, manuscript layout, codicology), we look at both the theory and practice of vernacular writing. Throughout, texts from England are studied in their European context – this includes an emphasis on the Latin matrix of vernacular writing, on the distinctive insular (English, Irish and Welsh) experience of using the vernacular, and on England’s engagement with the wide-ranging and diverse literary cultures of Northwest Afro-Eurasia (a space extending from Ireland to India and from Scandinavia to North Africa).

The module is organized in 4 clusters, each with two seminars: 1) King Alfred: The Power of the Written Word; 2) The Exeter Book: Building in Time and Space; 3) Beowulf; 4) Ælfric: Using English for the Sacred.  Works to be read include: Alfred’s Preface to the Pastoral Care, Asser’s Life of Alfred, the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ Chronicles, the Exeter Book, BeowulfThe Letter of Alexander to Aristotle, the writings of Ælfric and Wulfstan and Apollonius of Tyre.

All texts studied will be available in translation as well as the original, and the module can be taken by students with no prior knowledge of Old English or Latin. Seminars will be structured around close reading and general discussion.

Module learning outcomes

Subject content

  • A good knowledge of the literature of England from the 9th-11th centuries.
  • an awareness of the cultural contexts of literary production in in 9-11th-century England
  • an understanding of the politics of the major trends in the literary criticism of the period

Academic and graduate skills

  • Research skills in the areas of 9th-11th century English literature, in the vernacular and Latin
  • Masters level writing skills
  • Masters level seminar skills - presentations and discussion participation


Task Length % of module mark
4,500 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
4,500 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Written and/or verbal feedback on draft essay; written report on final assessment within 6 weeks of submission and within two weeks of submission for re-assessed work.

Indicative reading

Works to be read may include: Beowulf, The Letter of Alexander, The Exeter Book, Apollonius of Tyre, The Encomium Emmae Reginae, The Life of King Edward, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, The Song of Roland, Gaimars Estoire des Engleis, William of Malmesburys History of the Kings of England, Geoffrey of Monmouths History of the Kings of Britain and the Roman dEneas.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.