Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic
Interested in medieval languages? The Vikings? The Anglo-Saxons? The Celtic peoples? The Cambridge degree in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic offers a unique opportunity to study together the languages, literature, history and culture of early medieval Europe. There are many history and language degrees available, but in focusing on the early medieval world ASNC, as it is known, allows its students quickly to become expert in their chosen field and to engage with cutting-edge research at an early stage in their studies.
The course is driven by the close study of medieval sources of all kinds. First- and second-year students choose six options from among Anglo-Saxon history, Old English language and literature, medieval Scandinavian history, Old Norse language and literature, the history of the Brittonic-speaking people, medieval Welsh language and literature, the history of the Gaelic-speaking peoples, medieval Irish language and literature, insular Latin language and literature, and palaeography. Second-year students are also able to take on certain relevant options from other Cambridge degrees (studying papers in, for instance, medieval French, Middle English and archaeology) Third year students can choose from a wide range of in-depth language, literature and history papers. They also produce a substantial dissertation based on original research.
Our degree allows students to place the emphasis of their studies where they please. Most will select a combination of historical and literary options. In this way, budding historians will learn to handle the various kinds of evidence at their disposal and to read primary sources in the original languages, and students whose primary interest lies in language and literature will be able to place the literature of their choice in its historical context and to study it against its cultural background and in comparison with other literatures. Some students, however, focus their interests more closely from the outset and select mainly historical or mainly literary and linguistic courses, or concentrate on either the 'Celtic' or 'Germanic' peoples. A list of helpful introductory reading is available here.
ASNC at Caius
The Caius ASNC community is a small and friendly one. We normally admit one, two or three students a year and so there are usually about half a dozen students reading ASNC here at any one time. Though a small group, this represents one of the larger College communities of ASNC students in the University. Language classes and lectures take place centrally in the faculty and so Caius students quickly get to know all of their colleagues at other Colleges. Supervisions, the small-group teaching which characterise all Cambridge degrees, are organised by the College and draw upon both our own Director of Studies’ expertise and that of the wider community of ASNC scholars across the University. Whether you want to study Anglo-Saxon History, Scandinavian saga or Celtic philology we’ll make sure you’re taught by the best person in the University. We’ll also make sure that you have every opportunity to socialise with your academic colleagues in the College and elsewhere through regular ASNC events, including lunches, dinners and garden parties.
The College’s Director of Studies is Dr Erik Niblaeus. The College has many other Fellows and students in related subjects including History, Art History, Archaeology, Linguistics, Theology, Classics and Languages.
No previous formal experience of any ASNC subject is expected or required of applicants, although you do have to be enthusiastic and serious about the course. We look for general evidence of your ability in the humanities and often students who are successful in their applications are already achieving highly in subjects such as English, History and any ancient or modern language. Other humanities and science subjects in combination can also prepare students appropriately and anyone who has a strong academic portfolio and has started to investigate the subject more deeply outside of the classroom is likely to be a serious candidate.
We expect candidates to have begun their own exploration of early medieval literature or history. For some this will mean reading medieval texts translated into modern English; for others this will mean reading and exploring medieval history or archaeology; others again might build on their interests in Latin or perhaps linguistics. All of these, if approached thoughtfully and ambitiously, can provide an excellent route into the ASNC course.
Once candidates have applied, we ask them to submit two pieces of written work in any humanities subject. Ideally, you should choose recent pieces which demonstrate your analytical ability and engage with complex and challenging ideas and materials. They need not be on a medieval subject and most candidates submit work which they have already written as part of their school or college studies. Candidates who are called to interview (and that is almost all of them) will be interviewed twice. At least one of these interviews will be with subject specialists. No specific prior knowledge is expected at interview, but candidates will be expected to engage with unseen challenging materials relating to the medieval world.