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This syllabus is subject to change. The latest version on this website is the binding syllabus.




English 313 is an introduction to the Old English language (its phonology, morphology, and syntax) and to Old English literature. In this course you will learn the language and translate poetry from the original.

My office is 455 South College (top floor, south-east corner). Phone is 413-545-6598. Office hours are by appointment.

Please read this warning about the course.

We meet TTh, 10:00 – 11:15 am, in South College E480.
(Campus Map.)


We will be using:

All books are available online for free. As a supplement to Sweet, you can read Mitchell & Robinson, A Guide to Old English. You also have free access to Michael Drout's online grammar, King Alfred's Grammar.

Recommended. For a dictionary, you can use the online Bosworth-Toller (a link is always to the right, under the calendar). An excellent student dictionary is J. R. Clark Hall, A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, 4th edition (University of Toronto, 1960)—half a dozen copies are in the 5-college libraries. For background reading, Malcolm Godden and Michael Lapidge, The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature (Cambridge, 1991), free to UMass students; it is an excellent resource comprised of top-notch essays. And a free app to learn OE.

NB. Your priority in this class is to understand the language. So, download or buy Sweet as soon as possible.


We begin with an introduction to the language of Anglo-Saxon England in the ninth century. You must be competent in English grammar (here is a good, short book on English grammar). The first half of each class we will discuss Old English syntax, morphology, phonology, and history.

The second half of each class we will translate and discuss Old English literature. All of it is available in pdf on-line through this site here: handouts.

Finally, we will discuss briefly the culture of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages in order to contextualize Old English lit. It's a chance to cultivate your inner Viking.


There is a midterm exam (20%), a final paper (30%), and 5 quizzes (40%). Attendance and participation are 10%. We will be translating in class; your translation counts as your participation. Graduate students are also responsible for a research paper which engages secondary sources.


Attendance is required. Why bother enrolling in college otherwise? You only have 26 classes. That's 32.5 hours of class time. A regular work week is 40 hours. It takes about 50 hours to watch Game of Thrones. And you're paying for class time, so why not take advantage of it? You'll never get the time back. My complete Attendance policy is here. Although written for another course, it applies equally to this one.

Late Assignments are not accepted. Make provisions beforehand and speak with me if you anticipate obstacles to punctuality. I will accept officially excused absences.

Electronic devices are unwelcome, but may be used for reference. Please don't browse the internet, use Facebook, play games, or email during class. It is extremely distracting to me and to other students, who are paying real money to be in the class.

No recording devices. No selling my copyrighted lectures, even if you took the notes. You can use your notes from class only for your own personal use, and cannot share them with or sell them to an outside vendor or entity without my written permission.  This pertains to in-class recordings as well.  Distributing notes or in-class recordings without my permission is a violation of faculty copyright protection. This policy pertains to notes taken by students with accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—you are welcome to take and use recordings, but you cannot sell them or distribute them without my written permission.

Conferences. I encourage you to meet with me at least once during the semester, if only to verify that the grades that you have correspond to the ones in my gradebook.

Office Hours. In 20 years of teaching, only about eight students have ever shown up to office hours. Finally realizing my folly, I don't keep office hours. But, I am usually to be found in my office. (Please let me know beforehand if you want to meet—I may be busy when you pop by, or teaching, or at a meeting.) Otherwise, please make an appointment to meet with me at a time convenient to you and I will certainly try to oblige.


The University requires you to act and write with the highest degree of integrity. Ignorance of the standards of academic integrity is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent. For more information, consult the website of the Dean of Students.

See below (Note 4) for more information.


NOTE 1: Please make and keep a copy of all your assignments. In case any difficulties arise with respect to misplaced assignments or with respect to discrepancies between your records and my own, I will accept the evidence of your computer system's dating function. For your own peace of mind, I suggest that you lock any document on the day it is due. That will prevent your system from associating your document with a later date.

NOTE 2: The schedule of this course is subject to change. It is not to be construed as a substitute for your attendance or as a catalogue of all the information for which you are responsible. All changes will be announced beforehand. This syllabus and the accompanying schedule constitute a binding contract between a student and professor. If you do not agree with any of the provisions set herein and as of this moment, then you are free to drop this class within the time allotted by the administration.

NOTE 3: All material pertaining to this course is copyrighted material and is subject to international and US laws of copyright. No recording devices, please.

NOTE 4: Since the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty. Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Instructors should take reasonable steps to address academic misconduct. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible. Instances of academic dishonesty not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate department Head or Chair. The procedures outlined below are intended to provide an efficient and orderly process by which action may be taken if it appears that academic dishonesty has occurred and by which students may appeal such actions.

Since students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of such standards is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent. For more information about what constitutes academic dishonesty, please see the Dean of Students’ website at:

NOTE 5: Disability Statement. [Text from CTFD] The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to making reasonable, effective and appropriate accommodations to meet the needs of students with disabilities and help create a barrier-free campus. If you are in need of accommodation for a documented disability, register with Disability Services to have an accommodation letter sent to your faculty. It is your responsibility to initiate these services and to communicate with faculty ahead of time to manage accommodations in a timely manner. For more information, consult the Disability Services website at


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Academic Schedule
Grammar Sheet

To search the Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, click here.

UMass Library
Google Books
Search Anglo-Saxon Poetry
Old English Newsletter Bib
Anglo-Saxon Bibliography
Germanic Lexicon Project
Bosworth-Toller (partial)
Thesaurus of Old English
The Labyrinth
Medieval Sourcebook
Norse Saga Net
Anglo-Saxon Charters
Siever's Heliand
Bible (Douay-Rheims)
Dumézil, Norse Gods
Klaeber, Beowulf

Manuscripts of St. Gall
Old English at UVa
Viking Ship Museum


Warning! Jingoistic anti-Roman revisionism, but nevertheless informative:

VIDEO: The Ancient Celts
VIDEO: The Goths
VIDEO: The Barbarian Tribes