Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNC) is one of the quirkier courses offered at Cambridge. It is a mixture of medieval history, languages and literature focused around Britain and Scandinavia, but is highly multidisciplinary.There is plenty of room to overlap history with literature, and to choose exactly what pleases you. The course is small, accepting around 25-30 undergraduates each year, none of whom arrive with any real prior knowledge of any of the areas they will study.
What about the Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic course at Cambridge appealed to you?
Tonicha: One of my favourite things about the course is the freedom that ASNC provides. I had been really torn between history, languages and literature before applying, so getting to choose all of my papers and overlap my interests really appealed to me as I can choose only what interests me, and really focus my work on specific areas of ASNC. There are no compulsory modules!
Amy: Like Tonicha, I’ve really enjoyed the multidisciplinary nature of the course. Before hearing of ASNC I’d been considering either History or English degrees - it was my mum who told me that I’d ‘get bored doing one thing all the time.’ That was completely true. However, with ASNC there is absolutely no scope to get bored as you move from language to literature to history to archaeology!
How have you found the structure of the course?
ASNC is actually a very broad subject, despite being centred around a relatively small geographical and historical area. Especially in first year, there is the scope to try out new things and really get a broad overview of all of the fields ASNC involves, which is pretty important given that there is so much crossover between the various modules, whether that is Anglo-Saxon history and Scandinavian history, or Gaelic history and Insular Latin.
What is your faculty/department like?
The ASNaC Department is located on the second floor of the English faculty building. We are one of the few departments that has it’s own Common Room, as well as tea making facilities, for all of its undergraduate and graduate students. The Common Room, also known as the ‘Croom’, has a wide array of books, two desktop computers, space to work and socialise, and, to top it all off, a private terrace! There’s always a few students working in the Common Room, and every Monday at 1pm there’s ASNaC Lunch! The ASNaC department is renowned for being one of the most friendly departments in the University and it’s a well earned title! There’s always a friendly face willing to help and have a chat, so feel free to pay us a visit!
What types of work do you have to do?
A typical workload will involve roughly one essay per week, and at least one set of translations each week (or more, depending on how many language modules you choose to take). The essays are normally supervised on a one-to-one basis every week, and revision supervisions are offered in the run-up to exams should you feel the need for them. Outside of this, there are lectures (for which there is often pre-lecture reading), language classes, and the occasional workshop - for example, the Scandinavian history class gets an archaeology workshop in which they are able to handle a range of Viking weapons and artefacts!
Pre-lecture reading is typically handed out in the preceding week or available online, and we are pointed in the direction of handouts or books for translations. As for essays, reading lists will be emailed to give guidance on what to read, and these books are always be available in the ASNC library in the English Faculty or the University Library, if not college libraries.
Do you have career plans?
I have a rough idea of what I’d like to do in the future, but I am aware that lots of other ASNCs have absolutely no clue! ASNC doesn’t necessarily prepare you for a career path, but it doesn’t necessarily limit your career choices either and I’m most interested in working in the museums and heritage sector in the future. Since ASNC isn’t hugely crammed with lectures and supervisions, I use some of my spare time volunteering with the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology once a week, partly as work-experience and partly to meet different people. I am intending on further study in archaeology before applying for jobs, though - for which this experience is also helpful! It seems that maybe just under half of ASNCs are interested in continuing their study after their undergraduate degree. As I’ve said some people know exactly what they want to do after ASNC, others (like me) have a vague clue, and many have absolutely no idea - whichever boat you’re in, it will all be absolutely fine!
What about your course would you change?
Personally I feel like there while there’s a lot of choice in ASNaC, that can also be to its detriment. You can’t always be sure which paper you’re going to enjoy before making a final choice of papers to study. You could have one last paper to choose but have no way of deciding between, for example, Gaelic history or Old Norse Lit/Lang other than whether you prefer history or literature and language, or whether you prefer Celtic subjects as opposed to Germanic. Then if, after a few weeks/lectures, you feel like you’ve made the wrong choice, it can be quite difficult to swap from one paper to another. Sometimes the huge choice of papers can be a bit overwhelming, but the range of choice is also what makes ASNaC so interesting. At the end of the day it depends on who you are and what you want to take from the subject!
Typical timetable of a 1st year ASNC student
As an ASNC, your timetable isn’t overly heavy as far as contact hours go, however, there is always work to be doing outside of lectures: typically one essay per week in first year and depending on how many language modules you choose to take, at least one set of translations to be doing each week. It works out quite nicely because you are able to organise your own time, and fit extra-curricular activities around it. For example, you could choose to be on the editorial team for a student newspaper, or appear in a play, and still have plenty of time to get the work done. Obviously, the work is challenging and can take up a lot of time, but you’re free to choose when you want to put the hours in.
|10am||Gaelic history lecture||Anglo-Saxon history lecture||-||-||-|
|11am||Latin class - this class, for beginners, focuses on Latin grammar||-||Latin translation class - in this class we run through translations of set texts in insular Latin||-||Old English class - this is a translation class focused on running through our translations of set texts|
|12am||Latin literature lecture||-||-||Latin class - this is a recap of the grammar learned earlier in the week||-|
|1pm||ASNC lunch in the common room!||-||-||-||-|
|2pm||Scandinavian history lecture||Supervision - ASNCs rotate through various topics throughout the year||-||-||-|
|4pm||-||-||Brittonic history lecture||-||Old English literature lecture|
What has been going on at Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic?
- Recent Events -
ASNaC Society Guest Lecture
Organised annually by the ASNaC Society, this year Patrick Sims-Williams was welcomed by the society for a talk on early Irish and Welsh poetry.
ASNaC Society Handover
Ceremonial passing of the meadhorn between outgoing and incoming members of the ASNaC Society Committee, elected by members of the society.
Organised annually by the Presidents of the ASNaC Society, this year's trip went to South Wales, visiting castles around the Cardiff area.
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