• Academic Session: 2015-16
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course uses the epic poem "Beowulf" as a lens through which to explore Anglo-Saxon social and cultural history. Special attention is paid to the themes of family and feuding, the symbolism of weapons and treasure, the ideals of kingship, and the role of monsters in the medieval imagination. Because virtually everything about the poem is controversial, except the fact of its survival in extraordinary circumstances, the course deals in debates and hypotheses, not in facts. Students are encouraged to participate in ongoing controversies about when the poem may have been composed, and to think about the use of literature as a historical source and the problems of evidence in early medieval history. Discussion is central to the course via a series of workshops in addition to the seminars; students are expected to lead discussions as well as presenting their own seminar papers. A detailed course pack of supplementary primary source material is made available.


Twice Weekly

Requirements of Entry

Admission to honours in history

Excluded Courses





Coursework - class essay (2000 words approximately)

Examination duration 120 minutes

Coursework - seminar presentation 6% and seminar contribution 4%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

The aims common to all the Department's Honours modules are as follows:
1. the development of the intellectual interests and analytical skills acquired by students during their first two years.
2. awareness of previously unfamiliar methodological approaches, chronological periods and geographical areas by offering a wide and flexible choice of options.
3. to offer the opportunity to develop skills in historical computing, as well as basic IT awareness.
4. familiarity with complex historical debates and interpretations, skill in interpreting primary sources where appropriate, and to inform these discussions with new ideas derived from lecturers' current research.
5. the development of transferable skills by fostering individual initiative, personal choice, group discussion and, where appropriate, problem-solving team work.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course you will:
1. demonstrate enhanced skills of reading and analysing primary sources
2. demonstrate the ability to be able to evaluate the issues involved in using literary texts as sources for medieval history
3. show awareness of medieval texts in their manuscript contexts
4. exhibit greater confidence in participating in open-ended historical debates
5. demonstrate clearer understanding of themes in early medieval social and cultural history