Sex and Sexuality in Old English Literature

Module code: EN3146

Module co-ordinator:  Dr David Clark

This module builds on EN2030 (Old English). It explores attitudes to and representations of sex and sexuality in the early medieval period through an in-depth study of a diverse range of Old English literary texts and contexts.

Each weekly session will be based on one of a series of texts that will include translations of the Exeter Book riddles, Wulf and Eadwacer, and The Wife's Lament, parts of Beowulf, Genesis, the Phoenix, Aelfric's Lives of Saints and the anonymous Life of Euphrosyne, and Apollonius of Tyre. Extracts of texts from other literatures will be provided in class to give a comparative framework, and the use of aspects of gender and queer theory in analysing issues of medieval sex and sexuality will be evaluated. We will also consider the gender dynamics of some modern responses to Beowulf, including literary and film adaptations.


Teaching for this module will consist of a series of weekly two-hour seminars. Activities will include group discussion, small group discussion, and individual presentations. These are designed to develop your ability to analyse, assimilate, and deliver complex material clearly and to work as part of a team.

By the end of the module, you will have gained:

  • A detailed knowledge of a range of Old English texts and their different contexts
  • Enhanced evaluative, analytical, and teamwork skills
  • Familiarity with the methods of medieval gender and queer studies and their limitations


  • One 5,000-word essay