The Story of English Continued: Reading and Writing in England before 1066

Ref: C3670753

What written texts survive from the period before 1066? Join us as we discover the delights of the range of writing which survive from the Old English (Anglo Saxon) period. We will look at poetry (including extracts from "Beowulf"), prose and the intriguing Old English riddles, amongst many other texts. Who was reading and writing in this period. What place does the Runic alphabet have in this story? What happened to this great body of texts in 1066? Just some of the questions we will be trying to answer.

Course aim

This course will explore the remarkable written texts produced in this period, e.g. extracts from poetry such as "Beowulf", and prose such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. And who was reading them?

Who is the course for?

This course is for everyone, whatever their level of knowledge.

What topics will this course cover

Each week we will look at different sort of texts from "Beowulf" to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. You will easily be able to access the texts through the help of translations, but we will look at original Old English as a core part of the course.

What will it be like?

WEA classes are friendly and supportive. You will be encouraged to work together with your fellow students and tutor. You will be asked to share your ideas and views in the class and work with the group to give and accept feedback in a supportive environment. The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you to be actively involved in your learning. You may be asked to undertake work to support your course outside of your class.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

Understand how wide the range of surviving texts is, from riddles, to runes, to religious texts, and that some of these such as "Beowulf" have become famous and part of our culture. Be able to understand short extracts in the original Old English (Anglo Saxon), usually with the help of a glossary or translation Appreciate the importance of these surviving texts in understanding the early history of the English language and the beginnings of English Literature Appreciate the mixture of the pagan and the Christian in Old English Literature, such as the poem "The Dream of the Rood" and other texts. Understand how limited literacy was in this period, and be able to enter discussions on this subject, or do research of your own on some aspect of Old English literacy.

How will I know I'm making progress?

Through oral and written feedback, question and answer, one-to-one discussions, if appropriate.

What else do I need to know, do or bring?

You do not need to bring anything but a good dictionary will show you the origin of some words, or you are welcome to use your mobile phone to access online dictionaries in class.

Reading and information sources

You do not have to do any preparation but if you want to you could look at David Crystal's "The English Language" or any other internet or book source on Old English or Anglo Saxon.

What could the course lead to?

Other courses on historical linguistics. There are some interesting runes (original Old English language) in the church nearby at Crowle so you may like to visit this independently. This course may lead to an interest in Old English Literature and/or history, which may lead to museum/ archive visiting in many parts of the UK.

Download full course outline

The Story of English Continued: Reading and Writing in England before 1066 Course Outline


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2016
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
Visa Credit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Debit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Electron payments supported by RBS WorldPay Mastercard payments supported by RBS WorldPay Maestro payments supported by RBS WorldPay JCB payments supported by RBS WorldPay Solo payments supported by RBS WorldPay
RBS WorldPay Payments Processing