Ancestral Voices: The Earliest English Literature (Online)


This course aims to dispel the myth that Old English literature is either dreary, difficult, or only about drinking and fighting, and will introduce participants to the range of Old English literature, from stirring tales of heroism, courage, and fellowship, to poignant elegies of love and loss; from passionately devout to earthily humorous.

An accessible introduction to the earliest extant English literature. The aim of this course is not for participants to learn to read or speak Old English; the texts explored will be offered in translation. Optional activities and directions for further exploration, however, enable those who wish to learn some Old English grammar and vocabulary to do so.

Areas covered include: Anglo-Saxon history and culture; an introduction to Old English texts; in-depth exploration of selections from Old English texts in translation; an introduction to and taster of a variety of Old English; Old English script and runes; manuscripts; tools for close critical analysis; the heroic tradition; paganism and Christianity and women in Anglo-Saxon culture.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

Unit 1: Ancestral Voices
Anglo-Saxons - where did they come from and where did they go?
Ango-Saxon histories
Anglo- Saxon art and artefacts
Engilsh speakers at either end of the millennium

Unit 2: Hearing voices: introduction to old English texts in translation
Old English literature
The sound of Old English literature
Old English literature in translation
Some features of Old English texts

Unit 3 :Hearing Voices: getting more our of reading Old English texts
Analysing literary texts
Old English scripts
Introduction to manuscripts

Unit 4: Pagan voices and Christian voices
The pagan past
Conversion to Christianity
Pagan and Christian symbolism: The Dream of the Rood
'Caedmon's Hymn'

Unit 5: Old English voices: a taster of the Old English language
History of the English language
Old English languages
Lessons in Old English
Old English origins of Modern English words
The pronunciation of Old English

Unit 6: Epic and heroic voices
The heroic tradition
The Battle of Brunanburh
The Battle of Maldon

Unit 7: Beowulf
Why read Beowulf?
How Beowulf reaches modern readers
The style of Beowulf
Comparing translations of Beowulf
Enjoying and appreciating Beowulf

Unit 8: Women's voices
Anglo-Saxon women: in the home
Anglo-Saxon women: in the church
Anglo-Saxon women: in power and politics
Anglo-Saxon women: in literature, ‘Wulf and Eadwacer’
Anglo-Saxon Women: in literature, ‘The Wife’s Lament’

Unit 9: Single and echoing voices
Old English elegies of the Exeter Book
‘The Ruin’
‘The Wanderer’
'The Seafarer’

10.Lasting voices: the end and after
History of late Anglo-Saxon England
The Vikings
The Norman invasion
Old English riddles
Opportunities for further exploration and study

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting the final course assignment. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.


Description Costs
Course Fee £324.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Nicolay Yakovlev

Nikolay's doctoral thesis at Oxford was The development of alliterative metre from Old to Middle English - considered a landmark publication on the subject. He has published extensively on Old and Middle English and teaches for the University of Oxford.

Course aims

To enable students to gain an enjoyment and appreciation of Old English texts and an understanding of the contexts of those texts.

Course Objectives

On successful completion of this course, participants will:

  • have knowledge of a range of Old English texts in translation;
  • have gained or developed tools of critical analysis and understanding;
  • have encountered samples of Old English dialects and Old English scripts;
  • have explored archaeological findings relating to the 5th to 11th centuries;
  • have an understanding of the history of settlement of England by peoples from the north and east.

Learning outcomes

Participants will gain knowledge of:

  • the range and variety of the Old English language (introductory)
  • the range and variety of Old English literature
  • the history of the Anglo-Saxon invasions and settlement of England (survey)

Participants will gain understanding of:

  • the relationship between Old and Modern English
  • the diversity of Old English dialects
  • genres, subjects, traditions and conventions of Old English literature (in translation)
  • sources of our knowledge of Anglo-Saxon culture
  • practices and beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon peoples.

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link:


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.