God(desse)s, Wo(men), and Monsters in the Early Germanic World

Module code: EN3168

Module co-ordinator: Dr Philip A Shaw

This module focuses on the myths and legends of the Germanic tribes, particularly as represented in Old English and Old Norse sources. We will explore the traditional narratives of these cultures and the ways in which these narratives were transmitted and transformed in the Middle Ages. We will contextualise the narrative sources within the linguistic evidence for the nature of Germanic deities and supernatural beings, and their relationship with humans.


The module will centre around a number of texts, including Beowulf, the Old English metrical charms, and the Poetic Edda, which you will read in translation. We will undertake a close analysis of the mythical and legendary components of these texts, paying particular attention to the ways in which terms for deities and supernatural beings developed in the early Germanic languages. You will explore the problems and possibilities of understanding the transmission of traditional Germanic mythical materials in early medieval Christian communities and assess the ways in which an understanding of earlier forms of the English language can inform our view of pagan myth.


The module consists of weekly two-hour seminars in which we will discuss the texts and consider them alongside the evidence of linguistic forms, archaeological finds, and images produced during the period. Students will be expected to report back on their reading of secondary sources and will present their own analyses of mythological figures and narratives to the group during the second half of the semester.

By the end of the module, you will possess...

  • A good knowledge of the major mythological narratives and their socio-religious dynamics
  • An understanding of the ways in which linguistic, archaeological, and iconographic evidence can inform our understanding of pagan tradition
  • The ability to integrate narrative sources with linguistic, iconographic, and archaeological evidence in analysing the nature and transmission of mythological narratives and thought among the Germanic-speaking peoples


  • One 5,000-word project