Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic
What is ASNC?
Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic (ASNC or ‘ASNaC’ for short) is a degree course unique to Cambridge. It focuses upon the history, languages and literatures of the different peoples of Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia in the early medieval period. It is a distinctive course, which allows for the combination of subjects and techniques rarely taught together, but which mutually reinforce one another in the pursuit of a broad and detailed understanding of the world of which early Britain was a part: it is cross-cultural (involving the study of English, Celtic and Scandinavian materials) and inter-disciplinary (offering a variety of historical, linguistic and literary topics). Several of the subjects taught in ASNC (including palaeography and codicology, the study of medieval scribes and manuscripts) are seldom if ever available in other degree courses at the undergraduate level.
Who will be interested?
As a degree course, ASNC has many aspects in common with the other Humanities triposes, especially English, History, Classics and Modern & Medieval Languages. It will therefore appeal to any prospective student of these and similar subject areas, especially those with an interest in pursuing texts and their traditions back into the Middle Ages and beyond. But in its unique combination of disciplines, ASNC offers the student both a greater spread of topics and a greater detail of engagement with the full range of sources than is possible with most other courses. At the same time as looking at the history of early medieval Britain, Ireland or Scandinavia, that is, students are able to examine original texts relevant to this study in their original language, whether Old English, Old Norse, medieval Welsh or Irish, or Insular Latin. ASNC has, moreover, a very strong tradition of literary scholarship, giving students access to great works of literature like Beowulf, the Icelandic sagas, The Mabinogion, The Táin and the poetry of Aldhelm, again all in their original languages, and making use of the latest editions, critical writings and electronic resources in exploring them. All this makes for an intellectually challenging, and highly rewarding, combination.
No prior knowledge of any of the ASNC subjects is necessary in order to apply (though you will normally be expected to have demonstrated an aptitude for other linguistic, literary and/or historical subjects).
The ASNC Tripos is examined in two Parts; Part I comes at the end of the second year, with the more advanced Part II at the end of the third. The course is taught in a variety of forms, ranging from lectures and seminars (including language and translation classes) to supervisions. The latter, a mainstay of the Cambridge system, are (ordinarily one-to-one) meetings organized through College, for which students write essays and then discuss them with a subject specialist; these will be arranged by your Director of Studies, with whom you will also have regular meetings to discuss and plan your work. The ASNC experience is, moreover, enhanced by the small size and friendly nature of the department: its tight-knit, thriving community of undergraduates, post-graduates and senior members means that it is easy to find a like-minded person with whom to discuss your work, whether formally or informally.
Reading ASNC will give you access to library and other information resources that are second to none. As well as the library holdings at Homerton, the ASNC department has a very well-stocked library of its own, which functions as part of the English Faculty Library and from which books may be borrowed. Students also have access to the unparalleled resources of Cambridge University Library, a major copyright library with one of the most important collections of manuscripts and early printed books in the U.K.; the libraries of other Cambridge colleges also hold significant collections of manuscripts relevant to the period studied by those taking ASNC.
Like most subjects in the Arts and Humanities, ASNC is not a vocational course that prepares students for a specific career; but the skills that can be acquired over the three years of the degree are many and varied, and should most importantly provide a thorough grounding in the careful interrogation of a variety of sources from different points of view (literature, history, linguistics), and in the reasoned construction of sound, detailed arguments, whether orally or in writing. Recent ASNC graduates have put these skills to good use in a wide range of jobs, including careers in law, finance, publishing, teaching, the civil service, the armed forces, the police, computing, television and journalism, besides those who have chosen to progress to post-graduate level research.
For more information on the ASNaC Tripos, including details of course options, sound files featuring samples of the ASNC languages, and the dates of departmental open days, see the department’s own website at http://www.asnc.cam.ac.uk.
Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNC or ‘ASNaC’ for short) is a degree course which you can only study in Cambridge. It focuses upon the history, languages and literatures of the different peoples of the British Isles and Scandinavia in the early medieval period — in other words it does for these peoples what Classics does for the ancient Mediterranean world. It will therefore appeal to anyone fascinated by the early histories and writings of the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Celtic peoples. It’s an interdisciplinary course, involving not just history but languages (you can learn one or more of Old English, Old Norse, medieval Irish and Welsh, and Latin) and literature (we study the classics of early medieval storytelling, like Beowulf, the Icelandic sagas and the Mabinogion). (Note that you do not need to have studied any of these subjects before you apply — everything is taught from scratch.) All this makes for an intellectually challenging and highly rewarding combination, which is pursued by a relatively small but enthusiastic student population (there are currently two undergraduates reading for the ASNC tripos at Homerton).
The Director of Studies in ASNC at Homerton is Dr Richard Dance, whose special interests include Old English language and literature and Germanic philology.
His profile is avalable on the Faculty website: http://www.asnc.cam.ac.uk/people/Richard.Dance/
As the ASNC tripos covers subjects not normally taught in schools, all undergraduates start largely from scratch in terms of the specific periods, languages and cultures that we teach. Most of our applicants will have studied one or more of English, History, a modern or ancient language or Classics at A-level or equivalent, but these are not rigid requirements. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss your own choices.
The application process
For 2021 entry, there is no pre- or at-interview assessment requirement for ASNC. Applicants will be asked to send copies of recent written work (such as school essays) on any historical, literary or linguistic topic.
There will be two interviews, one with two members of the ASNC department (including the Homerton Director of Studies) and one with Fellows of Homerton. Each interview will last about 25 minutes. The main purpose of the interviews is to assess your aptitude for the subjects covered in the Tripos, and your interest in and enthusiasm for studying them. Remember that we are looking for potential, and we don’t expect you to have detailed knowledge of the subjects we will discuss.
Typical conditional offers
Our typical conditional offer for ASNC is A*AA at A-Level. IB offers are usually for a total of 40-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level.