See how language shapes and influences literature through Germanic philology.

Learn how language and literature are inextricably linked.

Germanic philology is the comparative and historical study of Germanic languages, modern and ancient and everything in-between. Signum University wants to restore the connection between the study of language and literature that philology once provided.

Why Study Germanic Philology?

According to Dr. Tom Shippey, comparative philology was “one of the breakthrough subjects of the nineteenth century, and for a while had a claim to being the nearest thing the humanities possessed to a hard science.” As a discipline, philology is the study of languages, in particular the relationships between them, as well as their historical development. This is done through the examination and comparison of texts from the earliest times through today.

Germanic philology focuses specifically on the Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages. This includes modern languages such as German, English, Swedish, Dutch, Icelandic, and others, as well as their ancient counterparts such as Anglo-Saxon (i.e., Old English), Old High German, Gothic, Old Norse, and many more. Exploring the connections and common lineages of these languages allows for insights and revelations that otherwise would not be possible.

Philological study also provides a way of looking at literature that has largely fallen out of favor in the modern world. In his 1959 Valedictory Address at Oxford University, J.R.R. Tolkien stated, “The right and natural use of Language includes Literature, just as Literature includes the study of the language of literary works.” Even at that time, more than a half century ago, Tolkien lamented the fact that the study of language and literature had been split into separate disciplines. His own creative work grew out of his love of language, and he believed that literature as a whole also grew out of the language in which it is steeped.

Making Old Connections New Again

Signum University wants all students to recognize the relationship between language and literature. As part of our premier degree program, the M.A. in Language & Literature, this concentration in Germanic Philology offers students an opportunity to revive the study of language and literature together.

  M.A. program details  

For those who are not ready to commit to a full M.A. program, you can also enroll in our Certificate Program or sit in on Germanic Philology courses as an auditor.

Meet the Germanic Philology Faculty

Philology is a relatively small discipline these days, but those who study it are dedicated. Signum is fortunate to work with knowledgable and pioneering professors in the world of Germanic philology. Read about these professors below, and click on their portraits to see more!

Dr. Tom Shippey

Dr. Tom Shippey’s Tolkien scholarship is top notch, and his work on philology is some of the best. Who better, then, to have teach our flagship class in Germanic philology: Philology Through Tolkien?

Dr. Michael D. C. Drout

In addition to being a top Tolkien scholar, Dr. Michael Drout has helped to lead the way in reviving philology as a discipline. He has written a respected grammar on Anglo-Saxon, and his Lexomics project has allowed him to make fresh discoveries in Old English texts.

Nelson Goering

Nelson Goering is a scholar of Old English, Old Norse, and Gothic, and he is conducting his doctoral studies on the metrical systems of Germanic alliterative poetry.

Dr. Karl Persson
Dr. Karl Persson

Dr. Karl Persson’s area of expertise lies in premodern literature, and he spends much of his time studying the intersections of theological, philosophical, and sapiential traditions.

Dr. Corey Olsen

Dr. Corey Olsen brings his two-course study of the works of Chaucer, read in the original Middle English, to help fill in the literary and historical gap between Anglo-Saxon and Modern English.

Germanic Philology Courses

Currently, Signum University offers seven courses for the Germanic Philology concentration. Students seeking a M.A. or Certificate with a concentration in Germanic Philology must take at least five of these courses.

Germanic Philology Courses at Signum University
Course Lecturer(s)
Beowulf Through Tolkien Dr. Tom Shippey
Beowulf in Old English Nelson Goering & Karl Persson
Chaucer I: Visions of Love Dr. Corey Olsen
Chaucer II: The Canterbury Tales Dr. Corey Olsen
Philology Through Tolkien Dr. Tom Shippey
Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Dr. Michael Drout
Introduction to Old Norse TBA

At least one Germanic Philology course will be offered each semester. Courses will be offered on a rotating basis every 2 – 3 years. Course order, frequency, and availability may change without notice. Links to course descriptions above may go to an older version of the course. For current course offerings, visit the Signum course catalog.

Questions?
Contact Us!

If you have any questions about a concentration in Germanic Philology or becoming a student, contact us.