Introduction to Old Norse Language and Literature


The course will begin with an introduction to Old Norse language, using E. V. Gordon’s Introduction to Old Norse, and as students become comfortable with the language, we will read a selection of representative works from a variety of genres: historical prose, saga prose, and hagiography, as well as eddic poetry (wisdom, myth, legend) and the encomiastic poetry of the skalds. Readings will be partly in Old Norse, partly in translation. We will attempt to situate the texts in their medieval cultural context (analogues in English, French, German, and Latin literature), and we will spend some time on Old Norse palaeography and codicology so that students can better appreciate their material context. There is no prerequisite for the course and no prior knowledge is assumed, but students should be aware that the course will involve language study.

Martyrs, Mystics and Memory
(Tuesday 4.10-6.00)

Graduate Seminar.

This course will examine texts from late antiquity and the early and later Middle Ages in relation to memory, inscription, temporality, and embodiment. Our key texts will include Augustine's The Trinity and On Christian Doctrine as well as other theological and literary works (including works by Hadewijch, Julian, Porete, and pseudo-Dionysius). Texts will be available in the original as well as in translation. Theoretical works on memory, time, and embodiment will include work by Butler, Derrida, Agamben, Dimock, Caruth, and others.

ENGLISH 501: The Old English Period
(Time: Monday, 3.30-5.30 PM)


Temporalities. Prevailing literary criticism holds that nostalgic and providential senses of time dominate Old English poetry. This seminar will situate this criticism within the long intellectual history of thought about time, periodization, and temporality, and will consider what is at stake in such a representation of a poetic corpus that on the one hand is designated as the origin of English poetry, and on the other hand is often excluded from the corpus of "medieval English literature." We will investigate senses of time in the poetry and related early medieval texts, focusing especially upon temporalities of memory, ruin, nostalgia, conversion, expectation, and translation. Students need not have prior knowledge of Old English.

ENGLISH 350: Monsters and Heroes in the Beowulf Manuscript
(Time: Monday, 3.30-5.30 PM)


This course has two goals: 1) to improve students' reading skills in Old English, the language written and spoken in England from roughly 450 to 1100 AD; and 2) to develop skills in critical thinking and writing that are necessary for undertaking large-scale research projects in literary studies. We will focus mainly on Beowulf, the longest surviving Old English poem, and a text that has been treated from almost every critical perspective imaginable. Inhabited by monsters, pagans, and a hero whose fame derives from both his handgrip and his kindness, Beowulf offers extraordinarily rich ground for exploring the language and culture of England before the Norman Conquest of 1066. One of the most interesting aspects of Beowulf is its manuscript context: the poem appears in the Nowell Codex, sometimes referred to as a "monster codex" on account of the many fiendish and otherworldly creatures that appear in the various texts contained within it. As we read and discuss Beowulf, we will also work to situate the poem in its original manuscript context and to consider how intertextual analysis and the materiality of texts may affect practices of reading and reception, whether medieval or modern. In addition to Beowulf, texts may include the Old English Letter of Alexander to Aristotle, the Old English Judith, the fragmentary Life of the dog-headed Saint Christopher, and Wonders of the East. Attendance Policy: Students are required to attend class having prepared the assigned translations. Means of Evaluation: translation assignments, oral presentations, several short response papers (2-3 pp), one longer seminar paper (15-20 pp), and one exam.

G41.1060: Introductory Old English
(Time: Monday, 3.30-5.30 PM)


This course is designed for students who are interested in the language, literature, and culture of England up to the Norman Conquest of 1066. It will provide solid practice in the language and close reading of texts, both canonical and not-quite-canonical, while introducing students to cultural and historical backgrounds, representative secondary material, and the place of medieval studies in the discipline of English today.

The course will be divided into three parts. In the first part, we will go over basic grammar and read Old English passages with the help of translations. Since Old English is different from its descendant Modern English, it needs to be approached almost as a foreign language at first: students will therefore be encouraged to memorize important grammatical endings and basic vocabulary at this stage. We will also have a quick tour of Anglo-Saxon England, covering such topics as the Anglo-Saxon invasion/migration, Christianization of England, Viking attacks, and the Monastic revival. In the second part, we will read prose texts along with critical essays and study more advanced grammar and syntax. The third part will begin with a brief introduction to Old English versification and move on to readings of several short poems including The Dream of the Rood and The Seafarer. There will be discussions on topics such as oral culture, material objects, women's voice, and translation.

FALL 2007

ENG 301: The Old English Period

This course introduces the chief features of Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons in the British Isles from about 450-1100 CE, and places OE within the broader development of English. By the end of the first week, we will start reading riddles, sermons, biography, charms, letters, law, and elegiac verse. Although the goal of the course is to enable students to read OE with a dictionary, we will also examine the historical contexts of OE literature and, as time permits, engage with the material setting of these texts in the books that have preserved them.

Requirement Group: Not Restricted

ENG 305: The Medieval Period

Law and Literature to 1500: Law, like literature, relies upon the power of language (such as an oath), a written tradition (or precedent), rhetorical persuasion, and a system of representation. It also relies upon narrative (as in testimony) upon interpretive rules, and even upon “legal fictions.” Literature, like law, has the power to guide human behavior, but it also interacts with law, probing its boundaries and critiquing its institutions. This course examines the interrelation of law and literature as attested in medieval English texts, from romances, poetry, saints lives, and drama, to statutes, charters, case records, and wills.

Restriction Group: None

Beowulf (Time: Tuesday, 4.10 - 6 pm)

This course will involve close reading in the original language of this very well known Anglo-Saxon epic. Each student will work through his or her own individual translations from Old English to Modern English over the course of the semeseter. Preference given to those who already have a working knowledge of the language. Our primary text is Klaeber's edition of Beowulf. We will also compare various translations (Liuzza, Heany, Donaldson) with our own. Secondary materials will include _The Postmodern Beowulf_ as well as other materials to familiarize us with historical context, contemporary scholarship, and literary sources.

Old English Language and Literature

This course is designed to give students with no previous knowledge of Old English the basic skills necessary to read and interpret Old English texts. We will examine a variety of poetic and prose writings, including Old English alliterative shorter poems dealing with exile, gender roles, and early medieval cults of the cross; chronicles and historical narratives designed to construct specific ideas about the past and historical memory; and excerpts from the growing body of vernacular religious writings produced for an Anglo-Saxon populace that, according to some monks, was becoming increasingly illiterate. Throughout the course, attention will be given to Old English pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary, and most of the individual class periods will be devoted to reviewing and discussing translations which students will have prepared at home. Enrolled graduate students will be asked to meet with me both individually and in small groups to discuss bibliographic and other resources for pursuing Anglo-Saxon studies, theoretical approaches to the period’s literature, and their own research interests.

G41.2044: Development of the English Language: Language, Culture and Society
(Time: Monday, 3.30-5.30 PM)


This course will consider various socio-cultural issues that involve the question of language. Topics will include language and identity; issues of gender and class; diglossia, heteroglossia, and multilingualism; dialects and standardization; orality and literacy; and the production of language objects (inscriptions, manuscripts, print, etc). Weekly reading will center around these themes, and discussion will be based on case studies encompassing various historical periods (medieval through contemporary) and diverse geographical periods (transatlantic to postcolonial). There will be introductions to linguistic terms and concepts that are essential to the consideration of the topics.

350:532: Feminist Perspectives, Medieval Interventions
In a recent collection of essays, Feminist Consequences: Theory for the New Century, Misha Kavka and Judith Butler call for a “return to history” as one, and perhaps the only, viable direction for the energies of feminism and feminist theory in the new millennium.

Following the lead of Kavka, Butler, and many others, this course takes up that call in two very different ways: by examining the development of a set of issues that have proven central within modern feminism’s own history, and by putting feminism in conversation with texts and cultural practices from the medieval past. We will be concerned to trace the changing contours of a set of debated issues that have structured feminism since the 1960's, and then to consider how medieval literary and cultural efforts to grapple with these issues (or versions of them) may help us to see them in a new light. Issues to be considered include: maternity and the problem of family; sex work, prostitution, and commercial uses of the female body; sexual difference; woman and representation; femininity and faith; and women and militancy/peace. At each step we will pair contemporary theoretical work on the issue under consideration with medieval literary texts that corroborate or complicate modern views. Thus after reading the wide array of feminist responses to prostitution and sex work (e.g., Dworkin, Walkowitz, Rubin, Rapp, Nagle, Zatz, Wardlow), we will study medieval reformed prostitute saints’ lives (e.g., Thais, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Egypt) and consider whether and how medieval “whoring” might allow us to rethink questions of agency, communal property, and the eroticization of sex that have figured centrally in feminist debates on prostitution. We will consider feminist theologians’ efforts to reread scripture and re-envision the male godhead in the light of medieval women’s mystical writings such as The Book of Margery Kempe and the Showings of Julian of Norwich. Other pairings may include the Pearl-poet’s meditation on the body of a dead girl for our section on gender and representation (along with Spivak, Zizek, Lacan, Chow); and vernacular family romances along with feminist debates on maternity (Chodorow, Irigaray, Ruddick). By the end of the course students can expect to have gained a better understanding of the history of modern feminism, a stronger idea of how one might go about studying “gender issues” in pre-modern literature, and some sense of how contemporary feminist theory and medieval studies might be put in productive dialogue. This course thus continually mediates between historical specificity and modern relevance, asking both how sex, gender, and the “woman question” figured in the Middle Ages and also what medieval texts and a return to history might have to offer contemporary feminism. No previous background in medieval literature is required and all texts will be available in modern English translation. However, some course time will be reserved for introducing students to (or increasing their facility with) Old and Middle English.

Primary texts may include Augustine’s Confessions, Beowulf, the anonymous Old English Life of Mary of Egypt, Ælfric’s Lives of Saints, the Romance of the Rose, Pearl, English family romances, The Showings of Julian of Norwich, The Book of Margery Kempe, Paston Letters. Theoretical readings will be drawn from the work of Judith Butler, Caroline Bynum, Rey Chow, Jacques Derrida, Caroline Dinshaw, Elisabeth Shussler Fiorenza, Allen Frantzen, Amy Hollywood, and many others.

Requirements: two short papers (10 pp. each) or one longer paper (20-25 pp.), attendance, participation, and brief class presentations.


Introduction to Old Norse

Instruction in Old Norse is designed for beginners as well as for more advanced students. Students will be introduced first to a bishops' saga, then to classical sagas in normalized editions. The objective is to provide a basic knowledge of the language for reading enjoyment. Instruction will be individualized for those with no knowledge and for those with prior exposure to the language. The texts will range in difficulty, from sagas with simple syntax and recurrent vocabulary to more sophisticated works.
The literature is vast, allowing for a broad and individualized choice of texts. They include depictions of sacrifices to the gods, power struggles, social advancement by knowledge of the law, women as strong-willed, intelligent and enterprising as any man. We will encounter, for example: Laxdoela saga's description of a jilted woman who, outraged, placed her infant on her lover as, escaping to Norway, he lay asleep on board ship; Saint Olaf's insight into the character and future of his young step-brothers at play (Heimskringla); unabated hatred that nullified judicial procedures to lift a sentence of outlawry 19 years after its imposition (Grettis saga); and the participation in pagan rites by the ancestress of bishops (Eríks saga rautha). By the end of the course, we shall have read some of the most poignant, dramatic, and psychologically insightful scenes in all of world literature.

Theorizing Gender before 1500
Graduate Seminar

Tuesday 4.10-6.30

NOTE: This seminar will shift weekly between Rutgers and Columbia campuses. Registration is through the departments of English at both universities.

This course will explore issues and questions generated by two developments in medieval studies: the increasingly central position of gender as a topic for critical analysis, and the use of contemporary theory as a means to explore the past. We will be concerned to trace out how medievalists have both used and produced theories that touch on gender, to examine fundamental changes in public attitudes toward gender from the fifth through the fifteenth centuries, and to develop a variety of working models for theorizing gender in medieval texts.

We will focus many of our primary readings on hagiography and romance—the two most popular genres of medieval writing. Both genres foreground gender, gendered bodies, sexuality, marriage, and family within highly formulaic and yet historically particularized narrative structures, and thus offer ground for mediating between theoretical issues and the claims of a particular historical period. A brief tour of Old English heroic poetry will offer additional perspectives on gender, as well as primary materials for theorizing gender. Throughout the course, we will read theoretical texts and examine analyses of gender from a variety of disciplines. Texts may include: AElfric's Life of Euprhosyne and Life of Eugenia, the Life of Mary of Egypt, Alain de Lille's De planctu naturae, the Roman de Silence, Beowulf, Judith, Elene, Wulf and Eadwacer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Arthurian Romances, the Old English Life of St. Margaret and Story of Apollonius of Tyre, texts on rhetoric (Philip of Harveng, Alberic of Monte Cassino) and medicine, and texts by early women mystics.

The Old English Period: Sovereignty
Graduate Seminar

Old English Language and Literature 2

History of the English Language

A language, not a literature, course. Overview of the development of the English language from pre-history, through Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, Elizabethan English, and modern.

FALL 2006

ENG 301: The Old English Period

This course introduces the chief features of Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons in the British Isles from about 450-1100 CE, and places OE within the broader development of English. By the end of the first week, we will start reading riddles, sermons, biography, charms, letters, law, and elegiac verse. Although the goal of the course is to enable students to read OE with a dictionary, we will also examine the historical contexts of OE literature and, as time permits, engage with the material setting of these texts in the books that have preserved them.


Old English Language and Literature 1
(Introductory Old English undergrad/grad)

ENGL 4091X: Introduction to Old English: Language and Literature
MW 5.40-6.55 PM

This class is an introduction to the language and literature of England from around the 8th to the 11th centuries. Because this is predominantly a language class, we will spend much of our class time studying grammar as we learn to translate literary and non-literary texts. While this course provides a general historical framework for the period as it introduces you to the culture of Anglo-Saxon England, it will also take a close look at how each text defines the human, the monstrous, and the notion of "home," as well as the role language itself plays in defining (or blurring) the boundaries between them. We will look at how each work contextualizes (or recontextualizes) relationships between the human and the divine, the natural and the super-natural, the individual and society. We will be using Hasenfratz and Jambeck's Reading Old English as our language textbook, and supplementing it with Mitchell and Robinson's An Introduction to Old English. Students will be expected to do assignments for each meeting . The course will involve a mid-term and possibly a final exam or a short paper.

ENGLISH 305   The Medieval Period
Law and Literature to 1500

This course examines the interrelation of law and literature as attested in medieval English texts. We will read romances, poetry, tales, and chronicles alongside statutes, wills, charters, and constitutions, and study their mutual concern with theories of representation, interpretation, and authority. We will consider struggles over the power of testimony and the written word, whether enacted by kings, bishops, heretics, merchants, or fairies. We will attend throughout to the interdependence of legal and literary conceptions of property, rights, jurisdiction, ownership, exchange, and the legal subject.

G41.2072 Topics in the English Language:
An Introduction to Theoretical and Applied Linguistics for Students of Literature

Tuesday, 3:30 -- 5:30

This course offers instructions in linguistic and rhetorical skills that would be useful for close reading and textual analysis. The course will also introduce students to recent trends in language-based studies in sociology, psychology, anthropology, and cultural studies. Topics of interest are: lexicology including the OED; philology, grammar, and rhetoric; literary languages; historical linguistics; pidgins and creoles; vernacularism; multilingualism; colonial and post- colonial Englishes; English and imperialisms. In other words, the course considers what language can do with/for literature

GER 508: Middle High German Literature: An Introduction
Graduate Course

ENGL 70300: Introduction to old English Language and Literature
Friday 2-4pm (2/4 credits)

"Old English" (OE) constitutes the first documented phase of the English language (ca. 700-1150), and OE literature, preserved in manuscripts of the 9th-12th centuries, is the most plentiful and diverse of the surviving vernacular literatures of early Europe. While some knowledge of OE is fundamental to understanding (or teaching) the History of the English Language, as well as for serious work in all Middle English and Scots literature, OE is of abiding interest in itself. The language at first glance looks "foreign" but motivated students routinely succeed in acquiring a reading knowledge in a 14-week course such as this one. After a few weeks of elementary grammar and short translation exercises, the focus shifts to reading more extensive passages of secular and religious prose in OE and translation, including the legend of an early Christian "cross-dresser," Saint Eugenia. Also to be studied are some classic pieces from the surviving manuscripts of poetry (Dream of the Rood, Judith, Wanderer or Seafarer, Genesis B, The Wife's Lament, riddles, etc.). In addition to working on the weekly texts, students will occasionally report briefly on criticism and/or theorizings of the readings (with some attention to the development of Anglo-Saxon studies, "philology," "English," and the Academy). Also required is a modest paper (12-15 pp) on any text or topic in Anglo-Saxon literary culture. A "Blackboard" website will be used for posting handouts and sharing materials; elsewhere on the Web there are excellent sites to help with learning the language and researching the literature and culture of the Anglo-Saxons. Contact me with any queries, and please register early if you want to take the course.


This course will explore the figure of the witness in Anglo-Saxon England and the early Middle Ages in literary, historical, and religious contexts. We will be looking at the implications of eyewitnessing in the construction of history and experiences of time, the role of the eyewitness and vision in the construction of authority, inscription as a form of testimony, Christian and non-Christian modes of bearing witness to the word, the question of the human and the voice in its Anglo-Saxon context, memory and commemoration. We will also examine the relevance of testimony to poetry and its relation to contemporary thought. Readings include The Fates of the Apostles, Daniel, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, selections from Bede, Bilbical texts, travel narratives (The Voyage of Othere) and pseudo travels such as The Wonders of the East as well as Old English Riddles. Theoretical texts include Agamben, Derrida, Lyotard, Felman, Blanchot and medieval theories of optics.

Students who wish to apply to this seminar should send an e-mail message with the subject "Witness and the Text" to Prof. Dailey ( by November 18, including the following information: year of graduate study and major field; their aptitude in languages (modern and/or medieval); related courses taken (either medieval, theoretical, or other); and a brief statement about their interest in the course.

Medieval Literature I: The Discourse of Slavery and Servitude, Beowulf, Piers Plowman and beyond
M 3.30-5.30 PM
This course will consider how slavery and servitude are either represented or regulated in the writing of medieval England and Europe at large. It will encompass various genres of literature, since the concept of slavery had both literal and metaphorical applications in the Middle Ages: on the one hand, the institutions of slavery and serfdom existed in medieval Europe and were both accepted and theorized by authors including Ælfric; on the other, the Christian discourse embraced the language of humility and privileged such terms as servus ('slave, servant') and ancilla ('handmaiden'). Among the related subjects to be covered are wergeld ('man price'), prices of men and women, human rights, and the ideas of sacrifice and substitution.

Students in this course will be encouraged to examine the topic from a wide perspective: they might, for example, read medieval texts in the light of contemporary theoretical work or re-examine post-medieval literature in relation to the medieval discourse of bondage. There will be several faculty guests to lead seminar discussions, including Elizabeth McHenry, Crystal Parikh (immigrant labor and sex-workers), Sukdev Sandhu (on international refugees), and Bryan Waterman (Olandah Equiano and the concept of Black Atlantic).

The primary texts to be read in the course include Beowulf, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (esp. the General Prologue, The Man of Law's Tale, and The Clerk's Tale), Ælfric's Colloquy and his homiletic and hagiographical writing, Anglo-Saxon laws, charters, and penitential literature, Piers Plowman, Cynewulf's Juliana and Elene, medieval romances and lives of women saints, Ancrene Wisse; secondary material includes the writing of, among others, David Pelteret (Slavery in Early Medieval England), Patrick Wormald (The Making of English Law), Allen Frantzen (The Literature of Penance), Louise Fradenburg, David Aers, Frederic Jameson, and Judith Butler.

The course is open to graduate students working in all areas and undergraduate medieval-studies majors and advanced English majors who are interested in the topic. Those who have reading knowledge of Old English, Middle English, or Latin are particularly welcome.

FALL 2005

What did English look like in the year 900? How did its poetry sound? This course aims to give the student a reading knowledge of Old English--which may sometimes seem foreign, but in many friendly ways is quite like Modern English. We will begin with basic structure and syntax, build a vocabulary, and translate regularly. The course will introduce Old English literature in its cultural context, as well as the ways its study has played a role in English history. We will also examine some manuscripts and facsimiles in order to gain appreciation for early medieval book technology and the complications of editing medieval texts.
Sample Reading List:
J. R. Clark Hall , A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary
Stephen Pollington , Wordcraft
Seamus Heaney, tr. , Beowulf
R. M. Liuzza, tr. , Beowulf

G41.1060:  INTRODUCTORY OLD ENGLISH  Mon 3:30--5:30 pm
This course is designed for students who are interested in the language, literature, and culture of England up to the Norman Conquest of 1066. It will provide solid practice in the language and close reading of representative literature, as well as an introduction to its historical background.
          The course will be divided into three parts. In the first part, students will learn basic grammar and read a simple passage along with a translation. There will be a quiz at the beginning of each class. In the second part, students will read prose texts while learning more advanced grammar and building vocabulary. The instructor will give brief lectures on the history and culture of Anglo-Saxon England. There will be a translation test at the end of this section. In the third part, students will learn the meter of Old English poetry and read short poems, including The Dream of the Rood and The Wander and/or The Seafarer. Students will write a relatively short essay (ca. 2,500 to 3,000 words) formatted as a conference paper. Recommended topics include not only medieval literature and culture but also "medievalism" that is, modern interpretations and appropriations of the Middle Ages.

An introduction to Old Norse language and literature, with the primary focus on learning to read Old Norse literature in the original. A few texts from a range of literary genres will also be read in translation. Some previous exposure to Old English or another Germanic language is useful though not required. For the syllabus please click here ('')

Our language has changed dramatically in the twelve hundred years of its recorded history. We would not recognize speech (Old English) of the first Germanic peoples who migrated to post-Roman Britain in the fifth century; Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (Middle English) might seem to be written in a foreign language; even Shakespeare's (Early Modern) English requires special efforts. Today, in different parts of the world, in our country, even in the city, we encounter surprisingly different varieties of English. In this course we will look at the English of these earlier periods as well as the English of our own time with a twofold goal: to gain an understanding of the sounds, words, and structure of the language and to consider the phenomenon of how and why a language changes (or doesn't). This course will introduce students into the study of language and linguistics; no previous knowledge if presumed. The course fulfills the New York State requirement for English teaching certification.