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Cambridge CB2 3RF
Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic
Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNAC) is probably the most unusual course available at Cambridge. No other university in the country offers it and a lot of Cambridge students have no idea that their own University does either!
The course can be summarised as the history, languages and literature of North-West Europe in the 5th to 12th centuries, but what you actually study will depend to a large degree on which papers you choose. ASNAC offers a large degree of flexibility from the very first day: there are no core papers; you just choose those which appeal. This means that an ASNAC degree can consist entirely of History, or be made up solely of language and literature options. For a lot of people, this is the course’s greatest attractions.
“ ASNaC is the most unusual course at Cambridge...and everyone starts as a beginner ”
The ASNAC department is part of the English faculty, and so we are housed inside a big pink cube on the Sidgwick Site. Whilst the building itself is deeply controversial, the location and facilities are great. The English library is contained within the faculty building and stocks a thorough assortment of ASNAC books. Within the ASNAC department, there is a terrific sense of community. Because nobody studies Pictish history or Old Welsh at A-level, everybody starts their degree as a beginner. Combined with the fact that we have our own departmental common-room (very rare for undergraduates), and a popular weekly pub meet, ASNAC is probably the friendliest department in Cambridge.
The teaching of ASNAC takes a number of different forms. History and literature are taught in lectures of 15 - 40 people (small by Cambridge standards). Language instruction is done in classes of about 5 - 25. Each term, you will have supervisions in one of your papers. These involve researching and writing an essay during the week, and then discussing it for an hour with a specialist in that field. The level of the teaching is generally pretty good, although some papers are better than others. The palaeography paper is currently a bit of a mess, so what format it will take is rather uncertain.
Best thing? A small and friendly department
There can be no doubt that if you choose to study ASNAC you will have to be prepared to deal with blank faces and bemused questions throughout your time at Cambridge – and probably long afterwards too! It is a field that a lot of people know nothing about, and for some ASNAC students that is a big part of the attraction, although others find it harder to deal with. You should be sure that your interest in the topics we cover is great enough to sustain at least two years of study; but if it is, then I cannot recommend ASNAC strongly enough.
Worst thing? The palaeography paper - we hope it will improve