Masterpieces of Old English Poetry

Course summary

  • Sat 08 Jul 2017 to Sat 15 Jul 2017
  • Held at Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford
  • From £765.00
  • 10 CATS points
  • Course code O16I106CAR
  • +44 (0) 1865 270396
  • Closed to new applications

Masterpieces of Old English Poetry


The course will introduce Old English poetic tradition focusing on its key themes and ideas, poetic form, issues of composition and transmission, and indebtedness to European culture. Students will become familiar with a variety of genres including epic, narrative Christian verse, elegies and riddles. Students will be able to explore some of the most famous Old English poetic masterpieces, such as Beowulf, The Dream of the Rood, The Wanderer and The Seafarer. The texts will be read in translation with extracts studied in the original.

Programme details

Session One:
An overview of Old English poetic tradition

Session Two:
The form and style of Old English poetry; reading Caedmon’s Hymn

Session Three:
The Battle of Maldon: Introducing conventions of heroic poetry

Session Four:
Old English elegies: The Wanderer

Session Five:
Old English elegies: The Seafarer

Session Six:
The Dream of the Rood: A Christian dream-vision

Session Seven:
Bible in English: Judith

Session Eight:
Bible in English: Exodus

Session Nine:
Widsith: A poet’s story

Session Ten:
Old English riddles: The Latin and vernacular riddle traditions; learning, humour and imagination

Session Eleven:
Beowulf: Date, authorship, manuscript, themes

Session Twelve:
Beowulf: Poetic art


Recommended reading

Hamer, R.  2015 (or earlier).  A Choice of Anglo-Saxon Verse.  Faber.

Heaney,            S.  2007 (or earlier).  Beowulf.  Faber.

Note from Tutor: The above texts should be read in advance and brought to class.

Fulk R.D. & Cain, C.M.  2013 (or earlier).  A History of Old English Literature.  Oxford University Press.

Orchard, A.  2003.  A Critical Companion to Beowulf.  D.S. Brewer.

Blair, J.  2000.  The Anglo-Saxon Age: A Very Short Introduction.  Oxford University Press.

Note from Tutor: The above books are for background reading only - it is not necessary to bring them to class.


Programme Fee (No Accommodation - inc. Tuition, Lunch & Dinner): £765.00
Programme Fee (Standard Single Room - inc. Tuition and Meals): £1335.00
Programme Fee (Standard Twin Room - inc. Tuition and Meals): £1120.00
Programme Fee (Superior Single Room - inc. Tuition and Meals): £1435.00
Programme Fee (Superior Twin Room - inc. Tuition and Meals): £1210.00


Dr Elizabeth Solopova

Course aims

This course aims to provide an introduction to key themes, ideas, genres and form of Old English poetry.

Course Objectives

This course will enable students to:

  • to become familiar with a range of Old English poetic texts
  • to acquire knowledge of their key themes, ideas, genre and stylistic characteristics
  • to learn about the circumstances of their composition and transmission

Teaching methods

All summer school courses are taught through group seminars and individual tutorials. Students also conduct private study when not in class and there is a well stocked library at OUDCE to support individual research needs.

Teaching outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be expected to understand:

  • Significant features of Old English poetic genres, such as elegies, riddles, heroic and Christian poetry.
  • Key characteristics of Old English poetic form.
  • Aspects of worldview reflected in Old English poetry.


And students will be expected to have gained and/or developed the following skills:

  • Read Old English poetic texts analytically with reference to important characteristics of their content and form.
  • Comment on Old English poetic texts placing them in literary, cultural and historical context.
  • Appreciate the nature of the texts’ material preservation and comment on challenges it poses to modern editors and translators.

Assessment methods

Students are assessed during the summer school by either a 1500 word written assignment or a presentation supported by individual documentation. To successfully gain credit (10 CATS points) students should attend all classes and complete the on-course assignment. There is also a pre-course assignment of 1000 words set. Although this does not count towards credit, it is seen as an important way of developing a student's ideas and therefore its completion is mandatory.


To enrol online, click 'Book Now', above.  To enrol by post, please see details of the application process.