Of Gods and Monsters: The Literature of the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings module (EN41002)

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Module code


  • Level 4
  • Semester 1
  • English - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 100%
  • PRE-1900 Century module


This module aims to introduce students to key texts from the Anglo-Saxon period. It seeks to develop students' understanding and appreciation of English literature and culture from c.600-c.1000.

The module will explore the ideological and historical tensions which dominate the Anglo-Saxon period, and to engender some ability to relate these tensions to issues of literary genre, gender relations, nationalism and networks of power (in particular the early Church). As part of the module you will be become familiar with the most basic Old English literary and religious vocabulary and gain a knowledge of the Old English manuscript tradition.

The texts on this module are read in Modern English translations. Students will, however, have the opportunity to learn the basics of the old English language.


Dr Jo George


Three contact hours per week.


  • Essay of 2,000-2,500 words, to be submitted mid-semester (40%)
  • Essay of 3,000-3,500 words, to be handed in at the end of the module (60%)



  • S.A.J. Bradley, Anglo-Saxon Poetry
  • Elaine Treharne (ed.), Old and Middle English: An Anthology
  • Tacitus, Germania
  • Bede, The Ecclesiastical History
  • The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Selected Secondary Reading

  • Bell, Roger T., Translation and Translating: Theory and Practice (1991)
  • Bloomfield, Morton W. & Dunn, Charles W., The Role of the Poet in Early Societies (1989)
  • Bragg, Melvyn, The Adventure of English (2003)
  • Burnley, David, The History of the English Language: A Source Book (1992)
  • Damico, Helen & Olsen, Alexandra Hennessey, New Readings on Women in Old English Literature (1990)
  • Godden, Malcolm, & Lapidge, Michael, The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature (1993)
  • Ogilvy, J.D.A. & Baker, Donald C., Reading Beowulf (1986)
  • Opland, Jeff, Anglo-Saxon Oral Poetry (1980)
  • Roberts, Jane & Kay, Christian A Thesaurus of Old English (1995)
  • Swanton, Michael, English Literature before Chaucer (1987)

Primary Reading

  • The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer (Penguin Classics), Jesse L. Byock,  2013.
  • The Elder Edda: Myths, Gods & Heroes of the Viking World, Andy Orchard (Penguin: 2013).

Secondary Reading

  • The Norse Myths, Kevin Crossley-Holland (Penguin: 2011) Background Reading.

Access the online reading list system

Module Aims

  • To introduce key tests in the literature of a period not covered in depth at Levels 1 and 2.
  • To develop an understanding and appreciation of English literate and culture from c.600-c.1000 and its relationship with Norse culture.
  • To explore the ideological and historical tensions which dominate the Anglo-Saxon period, including the Viking raids and invasions.
  • To introduce students to the most basic Old English literary vocabulary.
  • To give some background to the history of the English language.
  • To familiarise students with the Anglo-Saxon manuscript tradition and oral transmission of stories.

Intended learning outcomes

Students should be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the literary history of the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings
  • demonstrate an ability to discuss and analyse a range of poetry and prose from the period
  • to show an awareness of cultural, social, and ideological influences on individual texts and groups of texts
  • to discuss critical approaches to Old English literature and the Norse Sagas and how these have changed historically.