ENG4164 – The World of Beowulf
Schedule, syllabus and examination date
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 an 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.
- You learn about Beowulf, as rehearsed above; consolidation in the study of Anglo-Saxon language; and how to use an academic library.
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Recommended previous knowledge
ENG2154 – Old English, Introduction (discontinued). First-class comprehension of academic English, and capacity to follow detailed linguistic.
10 credits overlap with ENG2164 – The World of Beowulf (discontinued)
Teaching: one class of two hours per week, for ten weeks.
Attendance is an obligatory class requirement (80%). Additional absences must be justified by documentation to the exam coordinator.
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 M.A. students, 2500 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.
The final paper must be submitted in Fronter. Read more about submission procedures here.
Use of sources and citation
Language of examination
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 ha recieved a pass mark, cannot be submitted in a revised version.
Special examination arrangements
Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.
The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.