L304 / D 601 Old English

Fall 2010

Dr. Damian Fleming


Old English Research Project


Unlike, perhaps, many other professors and researchers, I don’t hate Wikipedia. On the contrary, I think it is brilliant idea and often an excellent resource. I know that many (most? all?) students turn to it at some point, and that it has even become the go-to resource for many journalists. What does concern me is that many students do not know enough about Wikipedia, specifically that is entirely user-generated and edited, and that anyone can change almost anything within Wikipedia. I also fear that many students are not gaining the ability to do traditional research. 

For some extended thoughts on Wikipedia and academics, see

“If I were ‘You’: How Academics Can Stop Worrying and Learn to Love ‘the Encyclopedia that Anyone Can Edit’”, by Daniel Paul O'Donnell


This project aims to accomplish a number of goals:

·         get you to dive right into some introductory scholarship concerning a time period you probably know little about

·         practice summarizing the work of other scholars in a responsible manner

·         getting you into the library and opening books (you know, the heavy flammable things that people used to use to get information)

·         learning how to access the wealth materials available through our library, via IUCAT request and DDS

·         appreciate the role and limitations of online research

·         appreciate the advantages of online publication

·         get you doing some translation work entirely on your own



DUE DATE: Wednesday, Sept 8

Choose a topic: pick one of the reading selections we are NOT going to cover in class.  Read through the table of contents of Marsden’s Old English Reader and pick something that looks interesting.  Once you’ve found something you’d like to learn more about and do some translating of, put your topic (including Marsden reading #) and name here on our wiki.  (Only one student can do each topic, so pick early!).  Topics must be selected and posted on the wiki before class on Wed, Sept 8.


·         Research your topic, gather bibliography.  Start with Marsden’s Introductions and use the bibliographies.  Next, use the resources found here.

·         Gather a bibliography on your topic.

        For this project, the quest is as important as what you find. 

        Start with the bibliography in Marsden at the end of each introduction.  You must physically obtain a copy of each of the items on his bibliography and retain proof that you have done so.  He also gives more general bibliographies which may prove helpful at the end of each introduction to each section.  Helmke Library will likely not have everything you are looking for.  There are few ways to obtain items:

§  the “Request Delivery” function of the IUCAT library catalogue.

§  the “Document Delivery Services” system of our library.

§  for journals articles, check to see if we have electronic access to the journal

·         I find the ipfw worldcat interface very useful

·         handy comparison of which catalogue to use


        Keep note of how you obtain each of your materials, as well as proof of how you obtained them.

        START EARLY: you never can tell how long it will take for a requested item to arrive.



DUE DATE: Wednesday, Oct 13

Create a annotated bibliography containing at least five items.  None of these annotated items may be from encyclopedias or translations.  The “Annotation” need not be more than three sentences or so. 

For example:

Andy Orchard, “Beowulf and other Battlers: An Introduction to Beowulf” in Beowulf and Other Stories: A New Introduction to Old English, Old Icelandic and Anglo-Norman Literatures, ed. Richard North and Joe Allard (London: Pearson, 2007), 63–94.

After offering a brief introduction to the manuscript and story of Beowulf, Orchard discusses the role of Christianity in the poem’s composition, ultimately arguing that rather than being a text which celebrates pagan violence, “the Beowulf poet offers a powerful critique of the heroic creed.”  Orchard then places the poem in the context of other Old English poems, and suggests the influence on Beowulf on other explicitly Christian poems, such as those of Cynewulf, and the poetic Judith.

Post your Bibliography on our wiki before class on Wed, Oct 13.



DUE DATE: Monday Nov 22

Write a concise introduction to your topic and scholarship on your topic for the benefit of your fellow students which expands in a significant way from Marsden’s introduction.  Your introduction, not counting bibliography or translation, must be at least 750 words.  Think of this as an encyclopedia (or Wikipedia) entry with annotated bibliography.  Only five of your bibliographical items have to be annotated; however, you should include all items you consulted, including the reference works above.

Translate a chunk of your text.  Pick a selection of your text from Marsden’s book and translate it into good modern English.  The chunk must be at least 20 lines long and must begin at the beginning of a sentence and end at the end of a sentence.  Then write a one paragraph commentary on your translation, noting difficulties you encountered, possible interpretations, and any other notes.  If you find that some of your translation is not as clear as you’d like it, this would be a good place to explain what you think is going on.

Post your entry, translation (indicting the page and line numbers from Marsden), and complete bibliography on our wiki before class on Monday, Nov 22.


EXTRA CREDIT: for 5–10% extra credit on your final project grade, make a video of you reading your selection in Old English and post it on YouTube.  Include a link to this recording within your entry.



DUE DATE: Wed, Dec 1

Look through Wikipedia entries on your topic, and find a problem with one of them (either an actual error, in your opinion, or a lack) and FIX it!  At the end of you project page on our wiki, write a short paragraph explaining what you’ve done to improve Wikipedia, and provide a link to the entry you’ve improved.  Do this before class on Wed, Dec 1.

Many of these topics may not have a Wikipedia entry at all.  If that is the case, you will create one, by uploading your project onto Wikipedia.


DUE DATE: Wed, Dec 1

Gimme your proof:

·         Hand in proof of origin for your bibliographical items

o   How did you get them?

o   if they are DDS, where did the library get them?

·         Hand in a highlighted before and after print-out, with brief narrative, explaining what you’ve done on Wikipedia. 

STEP SEVEN: Peer Evaluate

DUE DATE: Wed, Dec 8

Each student will be assigned 10 peer-entries to read carefully and formally evaluate.  You will write a paragraph review of the entry and provide a letter grade.  By Nov. 24, anonymously post your evaluations onto our wiki in the comments section of the appropriate box, and also hand into me a typed collection of all your evaluations (so I can give you credit for your work).


·         Each student will review the 10 entries which follow their own on the wiki (looping back to the top when necessary).

·         Use the anonymous log-ins listed in the sidebar to post your comments

·         End each assessment with a grade (out of 10) which you would assign this entry

·         Hand into me a printout of all your evaluations


Thoughts on Peer evaluating:

You do not need to an expert on Old English to evaluate each other’s work.  On the contrary, everyone should write their project with their classmates in mind as an audience.  You should seek clarity without condescension.  When evaluating, clarity should be one of your primary criteria.  Can you follow the student-author’s explanations?  Is the student-author providing information at a level appropriate to this class?  Secondly, evaluators should feel free to consider the perceived effort put forth in preparing the project.  Is it clearly written, and free from basic typographical errors?  Is it interesting and well researched?  Has the author seemed to minimally follow the assignment, matched the assignment appropriately, or perhaps gone above and beyond the expectations of the assignment?  Feel free to mentally compare your peers’ projects with your own.

Also feel free to investigate any suspicious wording.  If you find that one of your peers appears to have plagiarized, let us know.  It’s often a good idea to directly compare a peer’s work with Wikipedia to see if they have taken the easiest way out.