Fall 2019 - ENGL 300 D100

Old English (4)

Class Number: 4635

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Mon, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 9, 2019
    Mon, 12:00–3:00 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Matt Hussey
    Office: AQ6140
    Office Hours: M 12:30-1:30 W 9:00-10:00
  • Prerequisites:

    Two 100 division English courses, and two 200 division English courses.



The study of the basics of the Old English language and the reading of several texts of relative simplicity.


Introduction to Old English Language and Literature

Her mon mæg giet gesion hiora swæð
Here one may yet see their path                                    
-King Alfred the Great, c. 896, looking back on the ruins of ancient learning and wisdom, after decades of war with the Vikings  

Old English may look very foreign—and at times it really is—but each word in that sentence above, written by a warrior king over a thousand years ago, is fairly clear if you know how it sounds; and once you know that ‘mon’ is our word ‘man’, which (right or wrong) meant an ‘individual’, and ‘swæð’ (pronounced ‘swath’) is still a word for ‘track’ or ‘trail’ (though usually used in the context of mowing grass), then you are reading Old English. (Okay, except for that ‘hiora’: blame the Vikings for that. They brought ‘their’ and ‘them’ for ‘hiora’ and ‘hem’.)  

The primary goal of this course is to learn to pronounce, read and understand the language of the Anglo-Saxons: now called Old English. Old English is a Germanic language, spoken from about A.D. 500 and written from about A.D. 700 in England, evolving into something very different (as a written language) about a century or two after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Old English is the most extensively preserved early vernacular (non-Latin) language from Europe and has a marvelous wealth of literature, both original and translated from Latin. In learning Old English, students will gain access to and appreciation of this brilliant literature of the Anglo-Saxons: we’ll look at the weird monster stories of the Wonders of the East, Ælfric’s dialogue for student monks, and the creepy sad love elegy, ‘The Wife’s Lament’ among others.


By learning Old English, the alliterative meter, enigmatic kennings, and structure of expression found in this early medieval literature become clear, and students will come away prepared, if they wish, to read the great Old English heroic epic Beowulf in its original form next semester (English 400); students will also gain knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, and syntax, as well as the rich and deep history of the English language and its earliest literature.


  • Quizzes 25%
  • Midterm 1 15%
  • Midterm 2 15%
  • Final Exam 25%
  • Homework, in-class work, participation 20%


Note: This course is essentially a language course, though we will begin reading literature part way into the term. In thirteen weeks, we move through grammar, phonology, syntax and vocabulary to reading texts in Old English. Knowledge of another inflected language, like German or Latin, will be very helpful, though is not required. Students must be prepared to study the material daily, as there will be quizzes and homework.

Important: The course meets Mondays and Wednesdays 10:30-12:20. Attendance at both meetings per week is required.



Robert Hasenfratz and Thomas Jambeck, Reading Old English: A Primer and First Reader (West Virginia Univ. Press, Revised Edition, 2011).
There will be supplemental readings distributed as well.
ISBN: 978-1933202747

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://www.sfu.ca/students/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