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The World of Beowulf - ENG00117I

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. George Younge
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

The poetry and prose composed in England between the fall of Rome and the Norman Conquest offers us a window into a world that is at once challengingly different and uncannily similar to our own. This module examines the attitudes of early medieval people to their place in the universe through a consideration of the textual monuments they left behind. Topics covered include ecology, time, community, love, play, craft, dying, and the supernatural.

The response of early medieval people to the world around them was just as nuanced and contradictory as our own, and we will explore some of the dilemmas that were at the heart of their society, including ideas of friendship, loyalty, and religious faith. Along the way, students will encounter a colourful universe of exiles, monsters, fire-breathing dragons, and objects that talk. They will listen to archbishop Wulfstan of York thundering from his pulpit about the impending apocalypse, and follow the legendary hero Beowulf into the underwater lair of a homicidal monster with a grudge. In addition to introducing students to major works from the period c.600-1066, the module also traces the influence of Old English literature on later writers, such as Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ezra Pound, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Seamus Heaney.

Seminar texts are read in translation; however students will receive elementary instruction in Old English grammar and vocabulary through collaborative workshops, for which no prior experience is required. This will enable them not only to engage with some of the greatest works of early medieval literature in the original language, but also to deepen their understanding of the history and grammar of modern English.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23 to Summer Term 2022-23

Module aims

This module introduces students to literature composed in England during the Anglo-Saxon period (c.600–1066), a rich and varied epoch that had an enduring influence on later writers. Students will develop a detailed knowledge of a range of poetic and prose texts, a basic reading knowledge of Old English, and form an opinion of the Anglo-Saxons' sense of their place within the world.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an informed understanding of and engagement with a range of core Anglo-Saxon texts.

  2. Demonstrate an informed understanding of and engagement with the Anglo-Saxon's sophisticated sense of their place in time and space, as well as social, cultural and political contexts.

  3. Examine key debates and critical contexts for interpreting Anglo-Saxon literature.

  4. Develop arguments and ideas which demonstrate a proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.

5.Demonstrate a basic knowledge of Old English, and an understanding of some of the key issues at stake in the act of translation.


Task Length % of module mark
2500 word essay
N/A 70
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
The World of Beowulf Exam
4 hours 30

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

You will be given the opportunity to hand in a 1000 word formative essay in summer week 1 as preparation for the week 7 summative essay. Material from this essay may be re-visited in your summative essay and it is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work.


Task Length % of module mark
2500 word essay
N/A 70
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
The World of Beowulf Exam
4 hours 30

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours
  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment


Indicative reading

Key texts include:

  • a selection of the Old English Riddles and Elegies;
  • the Dream of the Rood;
  • Wulfstan's Sermo Lupi ad Anglos;
  • Apollonius of Tyre;
  • Beowulf.

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.