State of the Art II

Course Name

State of the Art II: Learning and Wisdom in Anglo-Saxon England


Leiden, Van Wijkplaats 4, zaal 0.06



Course date

semester 2 (2016 - 2017)

Registration open until

- 08/01/2017




Thijs Porck (UL), Rolf Bremmer (UL), Sandor Chardonnens (Nijmegen), Marcelle Cole (UU), Kees Dekker (Groningen)

E-mail Contact

Course objectives

This course is suitable for students with an interest in historical linguistics, Old English literature and medieval studies. A good working knowledge of Old English language and literature is highly recommended; students who have not followed a course in Old English must contact the course coordinator some weeks before the course starts for an alternative, online means to grasp the basics of Old English.

Completing the course successfully, the student will know what kinds of research are currently being conducted in the field of Medieval English Language and Literaturee, specifically with regard to wisdom and learning in Anglo-Saxon England, at Dutch universities and beyond.

The student will know about the conditions of that research (state of the art, the individuals active in the field), and will be familiar with a number of sources that need to be consulted to conduct that research.

The student has experience to identify a research problem, to formulate this orally and on paper, and to conduct individual explorations.

The student will be in an ideal position to prepare and write an MA paper that deserves the epithet ‘State of the Art’.

Course content

This course will consider learning and wisdom in Anglo-Saxon England. Topics that will be discussed include the nature and form of Old English proverbs; the learned background of Anglo-Saxon wisdom poems; the linguistic practices of glossing and translating Latin texts to Old English; and secular learning which ranges from natural science, medicine, divination and even magic.

This course enables ambitious MA students to explore in depth an area in the field of English Studies that may play a vital role in their future careers, as teachers, writers, translators, or as researchers of the future. Engaging for 12 weeks with Dutch anglo-saxonists from four universities in the country to study and discuss the research these academics produce, the theoretical considerations that lie at its basis, and to explore the instruments of this research (library, internet resources et al.), enables the students to develop an insight into the field of English Studies at large, as well as the state of the art in their future profession. This course also helps students to develop their own research ideas, and to develop their skills to move beyond their familiarity with the literary sources, into the archives, and to write convincingly about their findings.


Assessment: 5 research assignments (40%) + individual research project, resulting in a piece of writing of c. 3500-4000 words (60%)


[5 EC option: if students want to follow this course for 5 EC: 5 research assignments (80%) + individual research project, resulting in a piece of writing of c. 1000 words (20%)]

Study load

10 ECTS (= 280 hours)

Seminars: 12 x 3 = 36 hrs

Preparation and work per week 12 x 5 = 60 hrs

5 Research assignments 5 x 8 = 40 hrs

Individual research project = 143 hrs


Background Literature and Course Materials

To be announced

Further information


Costs: No costs for students. Materials will be made available.


Course dates: 12 three-hour meetings, on Friday afternoon, spread over a full semester.


03-02-2017: Week 1: Porck – Introduction

Introduction to the course.


10-02-2017: Week 2: Porck – Proverbs in collections

Students are introduced to the genre of proverbs and proverb collections. They read/translate parts of The Durham Proverbs, Old English Dicts of Cato, Maxims I and Maxims II.


17-02-2017: Week 3: Porck – Proverbs in context

Students study the use of proverbs in various contexts, such as epic poetry (e.g., Beowulf and The Battle of Maldon), law and historiography.

Research assignment 1: Students give a (group)-presentation of c. 20 minutes on selected secondary literature.


24-02-2017: Week 4: Dekker – Wisdom Literature 1: The Fortunes of Men and The Gifts of Men.

Students read and analyse The Fortunes of Men and The Gifts of Men against the background of analogues and other texts containing the learning that lies at the basis of these poems.


03-03-2017: Week 5: Dekker – Wisdom Literature 2: Solomon and Saturn II

Students read and analyse Solomon and Saturn II against the background of analogues and other texts containing the learning that lies at the basis of these poems.

Research assignment 2: Students hand in a 500-word summary of selected secondary material.


10-03-2017: Week 6: Cole – Glossing and translation in the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Durham Ritual


17-03-2017: Week 7: No class, break week


24-03-2017: Week 8: Cole – Marginalia and the transmission of encyclopaedic knowledge in the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Durham Ritual

Research assignment 3: Students hand in a 500-word summary of selected secondary material.


31-03-2017: Week 9: Bremmer – Alfredian Prose 1: Alfred’s role as translator

Research assignment 4: Sum up the pros and cons in the debate about Alfred’s role as translator in no more than 500 words.


07-04-2017: Week 10: Bremmer – Alfredian Prose 2: The Old English version of Gregory’s Dialogues

14-04-2017: Week 11: No class, Easter


21-04-2017: Week 12: Chardonnens – Secular Learning 1: t.b.a.


28-04-2017: Week 13: Chardonnens – Secular Learning 2: t.b.a.

Research assignment 5: t.b.a.

05-05-2017: Week 14: No class, Bevrijdingsdag


12-05-2017: Week 15: Porck – Conclusion

Students present their own research.



Work formats

Lecture, seminar, individual research