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Medieval : Exploration : Unlock the 'wordhord'! An Introduction to Old English

Faculté de gestion: Faculté des lettres

Responsable(s): Rory Critten
Intervenant(s): -

Période de validité: 2021 -> 2021

Pas d'horaire défini.


Semestre d'automne
2 heures par semaine
28 heures par semestre

Langue(s) d'enseignement: anglais
Public: Oui
Crédits: 0


Offer students an introduction to the language and literature of early medieval England (c. 400-c.1100).

Give students a basic reading knowledge of Old English.


The hero's first speech in Beowulf is announced as a moment of liberation: "wordhord onleac" [he unlocked his hoard of words, l. 259]. Beowulf must answer the enquiries of Hrothgar's watchman, who calls to him from the Danish headland to determine the reason for his visit; the poet's framing of the warrior's response invites us to think of it as a release of treasure.

This course considers the rich "wordhord" on which the Beowulf poet drew in the making of his poem, offering students a comprehensive introduction to Old English and the varied literature surviving in that language. Grammatical particularities will be introduced via the translation of a series of increasingly complex texts in verse and prose. Works considered will include prognostics (brief predictions for the future), instructions for monastic sign language, chronicles, Christian and secular poetry, riddles, and Beowulf itself, which we will consider in extract. This course will appeal especially to students with interests in the History of the English language and translation studies.


There are two stages in the evaluation of this class:

1) A midterm exam (week 7), 30%: students translate a previously unseen passage of Old English prose with the help of a generous glossary. A list of common words that will not be glossed on the mid-term will be circulated in Week 1.

2) A final exam (week 13), 70%: choosing one from two essay questions, students write an extended response to a prompt set by the instructor.


There is a set text for this course: Richard Marsden, The Cambridge Old English Reader. 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 2015. Copies for UNIL students have been ordered at Books Books Books in Lausanne: http://booksbooksbooks.ch.

Exigences du cursus d'études

Discovery: Medieval English

Informations supplémentaires

On Moodle

Unicentre - CH-1015 Lausanne - Suisse
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Canton de Vaud
Swiss University