Department of English

University of Toronto


Old English I
D. Townsend

An introduction for reading knowledge to the oldest literary form of English, with discussion of readings drawn from the surviving prose and verse literature.

Course Requirements

Lecture, language drill, and discussion.

Bruce Mitchell & Fred C. Robinson, A Guide to Old English, 7th ed (Blackwell, 2007)

Previous acquaintance with Latin, German, or other highly inflected language is useful but not essential.

Thursday 9 – 11 am
Jackman Humanities Building, Room 617
Return to 2012-2013 Graduate Course Timetable.

Writing the Nation: Pre-Modern Historiographies
S. Akbari

Pre-modern English writers had several models for thinking about the past, ranging from the Virgilian narrative of the rise and fall of great nations to the Orosian pattern of translatio imperii. Whether focused on nation or empire, however, the writing of history has always had as its goal the effort to impose form on the potentially chaotic fragments of the past. Nowhere is this effort more visible than in the great moments of punctuation: not just the succession of one nation by another in the sequence of imperial rule, but in the destabilizing rupture of revolution and apocalypse. This course focuses on the tension between the matter of history and the form of chronicle, and considers the role of poetics in mediating the movement of history into literature. To this end, we will juxtapose histories written and read in medieval England with literature of the Middle Ages, concluding with a glance forward into early modern narratives of the English nation.

Course Requirements

Class participation and several short presentations (40%); abstract (10%); final research paper (50%).

Texts will include: Virgil, Aeneid and Chaucer, House of Fame, book I; Statius, Thebaid and Chaucer, Knight’s Tale; Joseph of Exeter, Ylias and Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde; Orosius, Seven Books of History against the Pagans and Higden and Trevisa, Polychronicon; Froissart, Chronicle and Gower, Vox clamantis, book I; Foxe, Book of Martyrs and Milton, History of Britain.

Spring term
Friday – 10 am – 12 pm
University College, F204
Return to 2012-2013 Graduate Course Timetable.


The Anglo-Saxon Riddle Tradition
A. Orchard

At first glance, the Anglo-Saxon Riddle-Tradition might seem an eccentric subject for serious study. But close reading of the riddles reveals much of what we can ever hope to recover of the Anglo-Saxon world, its interests and opinions and its ties with those other worlds (Classical, Christian, Continental) that it sought variously to supplement and supplant. Alongside the 90-odd anonymous Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book, this course considers the closely related Latin tradition of enigmata exemplified in early Anglo-Saxon England by the North African poet Symphosius (‘party animal’), and by successive Anglo-Saxons whose works we can both date and name. Anglo-Saxon England witnessed the transformation from a native, pagan, oral, and traditional vernacular culture to one that embraced imported, Christian, literate, and innovative Latinate ideals, and the Anglo-Saxon Riddle-Tradition offers the perfect avenue to consider the tensions between the court and the cloister, the monastery and the mead-hall across a great swathe of the period. All texts will be provided both in the original languages and in translation.

Seminar Presentation (15%) due in last four weeks of term
Book Review (10%) due at the end of week 3
Annotated Bibliography (15%) due at the end of week 6
Research Essay (50%) due a week before grades are due
Participation (10%)

Tuesday – 9 – 11 am
Trinity College, Room 24
Return to 2012-2013 Graduate Course Timetable.

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