Introduction to Old English

Introduction to Old English

This course provides an introduction to Old English grammar, giving students a working reading competency in the language and the chance to put that knowledge into practice.

DURATION: 12 Weeks
ID: LNGC 5301

Disclaimer: The information on this page is provided as an overview. The course outline, readings, and assignments may be subject to change in the final syllabus as determined by the lecturer and/or preceptors.


Dr. Michael D. C. Drout
Michael D. C. Drout
Visiting Lecturer
Nelson Goering
Nelson Goering
Lecturer; Preceptor
Paul Peterson
Dean of Language & Literature; Lecturer; Preceptor; Coach

Old English (sometimes referred to as Anglo-Saxon) is the earliest recorded stage of English, spoken in Britain during the early Middle Ages. A wealth of literature and poetry is written in the language, including justly famous works such as The Battle of MaldonThe Wanderer, and above all Beowulf. Old English is also the starting point for the study of the history of the English language, and a gateway to Germanic philology. This course begins with an introduction to Old English grammar, aiming to provide students with a working reading competency in the language. Students will have the chance to put this knowledge into practice in the second part of the course by reading several of the best shorter poems preserved in the language, culminating with a short excerpt from Beowulf.

Course Schedule

Week 1

  • Read: Drout’s Quick and Easy, Chapters 1-5
  • Overview of the Course, History of Anglo-Saxon England, History of the English Language (Drout)
  • Introduction to OE Language: Grammar: Parts of Speech and Word Functions (Drout)

Week 2

  • Read: Drout’s Quick and Easy, Chapters 6-7
  • Fundamentals of Old English Grammar: Inflections, Cases, and Pronouns (Drout)
  • Response Lecture 1 (Goering)

Week 3

  • Read: Drout’s Quick and Easy, Chapters 8-9
  • Fundamentals of Old English Grammar: The Verb System, Irregular Verbs (Drout)
  • Response Lecture 2 (Goering)

Week 4

  • Read: Drout’s Quick and Easy, Chapters 10-12
  • Fundamentals of Old English Grammar: Demonstratives and Relative Pronouns (Drout)
  • Response Lecture 3 (Goering)

Week 5

  • Read: Drout’s Quick and Easy, Chapters 13-15
  • Fundamentals of Old English Grammar: Nouns and Verbs (Drout)
  • Response Lecture 4 (Goering)

Week 6

  • Read: Drout’s Quick and Easy, Chapters 16-18
  • More Old English Grammar: Verbs, cont. (Goering)
  • Response Lecture 5 (Goering)

Week 7

  • Read: Drout’s Quick and Easy, Chapters 19-20 and Cœdomon’s Hymn (John Pope and R.D. Fulk, p. 4)
  • From Grammar to Translating Poetry: Translating Tricks, Cædmon’s Hymn (Drout)
  • Other Texts: Old English Prose (Goering)

Week 8

  • Read: The Battle of Brunanburh (Pope and Fulk, pp. 5-8)
  • Translating and understanding an Old English Poem: The Battle of Brunanburh (Drout)
  • Broader Contexts: Old English and its Neighbours (Goering)

Week 9

  • Read: The Dream of the Rood (Pope and Fulk, pp. 9-14)
  • Old English Christian Poetry: The Dream of the Rood (Drout)
  • The Workings of Poetry: Stress and Alliteration (Goering)

Week 10

  • Read: The Battle of Maldon (Pope and Fulk, pp. 15-26)
  • Old English Battle Poetry: The Battle of Maldon (Drout)
  • The Workings of Poetry: Resolution and the Five Types (Goering)

Week 11

  • Read: The Wanderer (Pope and Fulk, pp. 27-31)
  • Old English Elegaic Poetry: The Wanderer (Drout)
  • The Legacy of Old English: Tolkien (Goering)

Week 12

  • Other Texts: Poetry (Goering)
  • Epic Poetry: A brief taste of Beowulf, Conclusions (Drout)

Required Texts

  • Drout’s Quick and Easy Old English by Michael Drout (2012)
  • Eight Old English Poems edited by John Pope and R.D. Fulk
    • This book is a revision by R.D. Fulk of John Pope’s Seven Old English Poems (1981). All the poems for this course are found in the older editions as well, and students are free to use any edition.

Course History

This Course has been offered in the following semesters.

Introduction to Old English
Summer 2021Dr. Paul Peterson & Dr. Nelson Goering
Spring 2019Dr. Nelson Goering & Dr. Larry Swain
Summer 2017Dr. Nelson Goering
Fall 2016Dr. Karl Persson & Dr. Nelson Goering
Fall 2015Dr. Karl Persson

Auditors (Discussion or Premiere level) can register using the link below. New MA or Certificate students should apply to the program. Existing MA and Certificate students should contact their Student Advisor.

Register here