This course is discontinued

ENG2164 – The World of Beowulf

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The unique manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, which narrowly escaped the Cottonian fire of 1731, was written probably in the 1020s or 1030s, but it is a copy at several removes from the original. The date of the poem’s first composition – itself an idea that is not straightforward – is much disputed, proposals ranging from the seventh to even the eleventh centuries.

The evidence and arguments involve source criticism and intellectual history, as well as literary methodology; notable here are nineteenth- and earlier twentieth-century fixations on pagan Germanic origins.

Beowulf is a heroic poem on epic scale (3182 lines), in the formulaic diction and alliterative metre of traditional Germanic oral poetry. Its characters and events are for the most part fictional, some supernatural, but they are placed in a semi-historical past, in Sweden and Denmark of the late fifth and early sixth centuries. Some episodes may once have been independent oral compositions, though present scholarship tends to regard them as antiquarian fabrications. The poem as we have it, however, is the work of a literate and Christian age. It is heroic, certainly, and in part straightforward battle poetry, but it is also an elegy on the transience of earthly life. Implicitly it weighs the nobility of a pagan past against a Christian present, and whether its hero could be granted salvation, no man can say.

The course will attend to these and other aspects of the poem, and select passages will be studied in detail. Students will be expected to follow the text in the original language, if necessary with the help of a translation. They will be expected to have read the whole work, if only in translation, before teaching begins.

Learning outcome

You learn about Beowulf, as rehearsed above, consolidation in the study of Anglo-Saxon Language, and how to use an academic library.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Recommended previous knowledge

ENG2154 – Old English, Introduction (discontinued). First-class comprehension of academic English, and capacity to follow detailed linguistic.

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with ENG4164 – The World of Beowulf (discontinued)


Teaching: one class of two hours per week, for ten weeks.

Attendance is an obligatory class requirement (80 percent). Additional absences must be justified by documentation to the exam coordinator of the course.

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


Form of examination: term paper (semesteroppgave). Minumum requirements: for B.A. students, 2000 words, not counting bibliography.

It is a condition that authors of term papers show that they have used articles and reviews in learned journals, and not confined their reading to textbooks.

You must submit your final paper in Fronter. Read more about submission procedures.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Examination support material

No examination support material is allowed.

Language of examination


Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

A term paper or equivalent that is passed may not be resubmitted in revised form.

If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

A term paper that has recieved a pass mark, cannot be submitted in a revised version.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Spring 2016


Spring 2016

Teaching language