Spring 2018 - ENGL 400W D100

Advanced Old English (4)

Class Number: 1518

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu, Th 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    WMC 2530, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 20, 2018
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    AQ 5006, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Matthew Hussey
    Office: AQ 6140
    Office Hours: T+Th 12:30-1:30
  • Prerequisites:

    ENGL 300.



Intensive study of several Old English poems. Reserved for English honors, major, joint major and minor students. Students with credit for ENGL 400 may not take this course for further credit. Writing.



Beowulf the Hero – Grendel the Cannibal – Grendel’s Mother the Sea-Wolf-Witch – the Dragon at the End: the major figures and plot of the poem are well-known, but the poem itself is much weirder, richer, and compelling to read in Old English than in its numerous translations, adaptations, and mediations.  

In this course, we will read the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, Beowulf in detail and in its entirety (or almost its entirety) in the original Old English. Studying the poem in Old English reveals its sound and word play, its evocative inter- and intratextual echoes, and its marvelous texture chock full of local puzzles and cosmic mysteries. The course will primarily consist of us all working together, translating and discussing the poem in a seminar format; however, we will bring in looks at the poem’s manuscript, oral and heroic literary traditions, Latin learning, and analogues from texts in Old English, Old Norse, Celtic and other early medieval languages (these will be in translation). We will also think about the poem through the lens of some of its contemporary renditions in translation, film, and other media. Seminar participants will be given the opportunity to perform a lexical study on an important word or phrase, and develop over the semester their own scholarly final research paper or creative project on the poem.


Intense, slow, careful and deep reading of the Old English poem Beowulf with an understanding of its cultural and historical contexts.
Consideration of what the poem meant in its own time, and what it continues to do and mean in our time.
Sustained research project on the poem, developed over the course of the whole term, giving students mastery not only of the material, but of research methods, critical methods, and critical and imaginative writing.


  • In-Class Preparation, Translation, Participation 20%
  • Lexical study 10%
  • Two midterm translation exams 25%
  • Project Discussion and Outline 5%
  • Final Project 25%
  • Final Exam 15%


Note: Beowulf is in Old English and students must have had training in the language, i. e. English 300 or a similar course.



Klaeber’s Beowulf, ed. R. D. Fulk, Robert E Bjork, and John D. Niles, 4th ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-802-09576-1

Beowulf: An Edition, ed. Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.
ISBN: 9780631172260

Both of these books are fairly available in used copies in online booksellers, so feel free to look for them there and save some money. We will be reading the poem on a daily basis from the lighter-weight and user-friendly Mitchell+Robinson, but the Klaeber 4 is the standard scholarly edition of the poem, so you will want it for in-depth notes, amazing glossary, and bibliography. Students may also want to look for a copy of George Jack's Beowulf: A Student Edition, which is super handy for day-to-day translation work on the poem, but we will not use officially in the class.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html