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Voicings & Revoicings: Old English Poetry & its Modern Afterlives - ENG00142M

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Fran Brooks
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

Old English poetry (the vernacular poetry of early medieval England) often played with voice and its possibilities, from the speaking objects of the Exeter Book riddles to the ambiguous identities of the speakers in the elegies. The relationship explored in these medieval poems between voices and subjectivities, has continued to provide modern writers with innovative ways of reimagining textuality, aurality and materiality in their own work. This module will give you the opportunity to think across medieval and modern poetry, books and artefacts. We will work with medieval poetry, primarily in Old English, and with revoicings of this poetry produced in the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries. This modern material will include translations and adaptations, as well as more experimental reworkings that encompass performance.

In medieval poetry, voice was both an instrument of worship and an expression of human ingenuity and creativity – language and voice were gifts with which objects, phenomena, and even ghosts from the past might be re-animated and made to speak. We will explore poetry as a crafting of voice, as well as the material traces of that voice as inscribed in manuscripts, metal and stone, and printed on the page. We will also think about the unreadable and the unspeakable: whose voices are preserved in the record and whose are absent? And how have postmedieval poets attended to these absences in their revoicings of medieval texts?

The module will draw upon a range of different critical approaches to this material including debates about orality and literacy, sound and translation studies, as well as postcolonial and queer readings of medieval literature. All texts will be available in translation as well as in the original language, and the module can be taken by students with no prior knowledge of medieval literature or modern poetry.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aim of the module is to introduce you to a wide range of Old English poetry and postmedieval translations, adaptations and reworkings of these medieval texts. You will also have the opportunity to develop skills in the close-reading of this poetry, along with exploring comparative and cross-temporal approaches to it.

Module learning outcomes

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

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with the main features of Old English poetry, and of how modern poets have translated, adapted and reworked this material in their own writing.

  2. Engage with comparative and interdisciplinary approaches, relevant critical vocabulary and contexts, including critical approaches to medieval literature, Medievalism, translation studies and poetics.

  3. Demonstrate skills in the close reading of Old English and modern poetry.

  4. Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4500 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

You will hand in an essay of 1,400-1,600 words in Week 6 of the Autumn term for the Postgraduate Life in Practice module. The main purpose of the essay is to ensure that the department can identify those students who may require additional assistance with academic writing skills. Material from this essay may be re-visited in either one of the January essays or the dissertation. It is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. The title topic of the essay, like the title topic of all assessed work for the degree, is left open to the individual student.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4500 words
N/A 100

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 module tutor, the MA Convenor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours

Indicative reading

Key texts may include:

Caedmon’s Hymn, Beowulf, the Old English Guthlac Poems, Toni Morrison ‘Grendel and His Mother’, Meghan Purvis’s Beowulf (2013), the Riddles of the Exeter Book, Lynette Roberts’s Gods with Stainless Ears (1951), The Dream of the Rood, Caroline Bergvall’s Drift (2014), Miller Oberman The Unstill Ones (2017), the Old English elegies, and translations of medieval poems by poets who might include Ezra Pound, Seamus Heaney, U. A. Fanthorpe, Norman Nicholson, David Jones, Edwin Morgan, Maureen Duffy, Vahni Capildeo, Bill Manhire and Nancy Campbell.

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.