Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)

Module ENGL1041: Epic and the Literature of Legend

Department: English Studies

ENGL1041: Epic and the Literature of Legend

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap 145 Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to the literature and culture of the earlier medieval period; although the original works may be Old English, Latin, Old Norse or Old French, all are studied primarily in modern English translations.
  • To enable students to gain a basic understanding of the forms of Old English, Old Norse and Old French poetry.
  • To study a selection of examples of some major literary genres of the period, especially epic, lay, elegy and saga, and examples of heathen and Christian mythological and religious literature.
  • To enable students to place these works in their historical and cultural contexts.
  • To consider the nature of oral and written composition and transmission of texts within the period covered.
  • To enable students to gain insight into some of the ways in which the medieval literature studied on the module has been used in modern books, stage works or film.


  • The module introduces students with no previous knowledge of medieval literature to the varieties of epic and related genres, and to forms of religious or mythological expression, in the literature of North-West Europe, especially Britain, during the earlier medieval period.
  • Although the source texts are variously in Latin, Old English, Old Norse and Old French, all are studied in modern English translation; however, students are also briefly introduced to samples of text in the original languages.
  • It will normally include Beowulf and a selection of shorter Old English poems, at least two poems from the Poetic Edda, at least one saga and the Chanson de Roland; depending on staff availability, it may also include one or more modern works that use the medieval materials studied on this module.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Expertise in areas of literature from the medieval to the modern period.
  • Knowledge of a substantial number of authors and texts from different periods of literary history.
  • Appreciation of the power of imagination in literary creation.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the distinctive character of texts written in the principal literary genres, the novel, poetry and drama.
  • Knowledge of linguistic, literary, cultural and socio-historical contexts in which literature is written.
  • Knowledge of useful and precise critical terminology.
  • Awareness of the range and variety of approaches to literary study.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts
  • an ability to demonstrate knowledge of a range of texts, authors, and critical approaches within the relevant literary genres
  • an informed awareness of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and an ability to offer cogent analysis of their workings in specific texts relating to the relevant literary genres
  • a sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects on communication of historical circumstances, and to the affective power of language
  • an ability to articulate and substantiate an imaginative response to literature
  • an ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to the relevant literary genres
  • skills in effective communication and argument
  • an awareness of conventions of scholarly presentation, and bibliographic skills, including accurate citation of sources and consistent use of scholarly conventions of presentation.
  • a command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology
  • an awareness of literature as a medium through which values are affirmed and debated
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • a capacity to analyse literary texts and other cultural artefacts critically
  • an ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of distinctive interpretative skills derived from the subject
  • a competence in the planning and execution of essays
  • a capacity for independent thought and judgement, and ability to assess the critical ideas of others
  • skills in critical reasoning
  • an ability to handle information and argument in a critical manner
  • information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access information
  • organisation and time-management skills

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures: enable students to gain subject-specific knowledge of cultural, aesthetic and intellectual issues in relation to individual works and authors, an area or period, or a theoretical or language-related topic; encourage students to be aware of the range and variety of approaches to literary study; present ideas and information to encourage, on the part of students, further thought and discussion.
  • Tutorials: enable students to explore, in a selective way, through small-group discussion, specific texts and topics (many of which will be addressed by lectures); to focus on selected literary issues and problems; and guide them in developing subject-specific analytical skills and knowledge.
  • Formative essays: are written on a text or texts, or a literary topic, and they require the student to demonstrate appropriate subject-specific knowledge and skills, such as the ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to literary study. A considerable element of choice of essay topics encourages development in students of their capacity for independent thought and judgement.
  • Essay handbacks: encourage students to reflect critically and independently on their work.
  • Independent but directed reading in preparation for lectures and tutorials provides opportunity for students to enrich subject-specific knowledge and enhances their ability to develop appropriate subject-specific skills.
  • Examination: tests the student's ability to present subject-specific knowledge, to select appropriate materials, and to construct and manage clear and effective arguments in a timed period; to demonstrate independent thinking, and test that students have achieved stated learning outcomes.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 Weekly 1 Hour 21
Tutorials 7 1 Hour 7
Essay Handback Sessions 2 15 minutes 0.5
Preparation and Reading 171.5
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
one three-hour written examination, open book 100%

Formative Assessment:

2 tutorial essays (c.2000 words)

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University