Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic

Christ's first court detail

Director of Studies: Dr Rosalind Love

This page is for students considering an application for Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNC) at Christ's College, Cambridge. Welcome! If you are interested in early languages, literature and/or history, it's certainly worth considering this course.

About the Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic course

The Cambridge Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic Tripos (known as ASNC) focuses on the history, languages and literatures of the peoples of the British Isles, and Scandinavia, mainly in the early medieval period. It is unique, as  there are few courses at other universities which allow you, for example, not only to study Anglo-Saxon history, but at the same time to be able to read - in the original - the writings of the Anglo-Saxons, and of their neighbours the Irish and Welsh, as well as studying the handwriting of the manuscripts which these peoples have left us.

Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic should appeal as much to anyone with an interest in early languages as to those whose enthusiasm is for history. The course structure allows significant flexibility, so that depending on your interests, you can focus more on things Celtic, or on things Germanic, you can vary the balance between literature and history, or you may simply prefer an interesting mixture.

In the first two years (called Part I), you choose six out of the ten ASNC papers, as well as from papers which can be borrowed from other courses, such as Middle English, Medieval French or the archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England. If you want to, you could write an optional dissertation on a topic of your own choosing within the subject areas covered by ASNC, and that replaces one of your six exams. The third year (Part II) is the chance to get more specialised, since you take just four papers out of a wide selection, and also do a compulsory dissertation, an excellent opportunity to write a longer piece of work exploring in depth a topic which has caught your interest during Part I.

All of the languages in ASNC (Old English, Old Norse, Medieval Welsh, Medieval Irish and Insular Latin) are taught from scratch, so no previous knowledge is required. If you do intend to choose any of the language papers, it is, however, preferable to have taken a foreign language at A-level, IB Higher or equivalent, so that you will have had a chance to test your linguistic ability.
 

Teaching and Facilities

Teaching in ASNC consists of a mixture of weekly language and text-reading classes, lectures (on the various literatures covered by the course, and for the history papers), and, in Part II, seminars which offer students the chance to improve their skills in making oral presentations on their independent research. A further very important element of the teaching for Part I is the weekly supervision. These are usually one-to-one sessions (just occasionally students are supervised in pairs) with a supervisor who is either one of the lecturers in the Department, or a postgraduate student. ASNC students have one set of supervisions for each paper they intend to take in the end-of-year exams. Usually the focus in a supervision is upon a weekly essay, written on the basis of reading list provided by the supervisor, and the hour’s meeting will be dedicated to improving both your understanding of the subject, whether literature or history, and also your ability to analyse a primary source, read secondary literature in a critical way and then to construct an argument in writing.

As well has having been ranked the highest of all comparable institutions in the UK in the recent Research Assessment Exercise, the Department is very lively and has a strong sense of corporate identity. Housed within the relatively new English Faculty building, ASNC has its own student common-room and tea-point, as well as a very well-stocked section in the Faculty Library which is for the use of all students in the Department, whichever college they are at.
 

Subject community

ASNC students are fairly small in number compared with other subjects in the University, so they tend to form a close-knit group, organising weekly lunches, pub-meets, and other social activities. They also run an ASNC Society which arranges speaker meetings and excursions, an annual black-tie dinner, as well as producing its own usually very entertaining newsletter. All this means that even if you find yourself the only ASNC student in your year at Christ’s, you can be assured that you will never feel alone.
 

Director of Studies

Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic is one of the smaller departments in the University, so only a few colleges have a Director of Studies in ASNC who is also a Fellow of the College. Christ’s has an external Director of Studies, Dr Rosalind Love, who is a Fellow of Robinson College. You will find that this makes little difference to the course of your studies since the great proportion of the University teaching happens centrally, and Dr Love’s office is just next-door to the much-used ASNC student common-room and only one floor up from the Department’s library within the English Faculty Library, and she is frequently to be found at the ASNC tea-point.

With responsibility for teaching Insular Latin in the Department, Dr Love’s particular research interests are in the field of hagiography (texts about the Anglo-Saxon saints), the writings of the venerable Bede, and most recently, medieval commentaries and glossing (that is, the things which people in the Middle Ages, just as now, wrote around the margins and between the lines of the books that they were reading). Dr Love was awarded one of the 2018 Pilkington Prizes, the University-wide annual prize for excellence in teaching. 

Careers

The ASNC course provides a diverse, broad education, which will sharpen your analytical powers, teach you how to construct an effective argument, and refine your appreciation of literature. Former ASNC students have gone on to a wide variety of jobs in teaching, the civil service, law, journalism, business, publishing, museum and library work, the police, TV acting, as well as to an academic career.
 

How to apply

ASNC students come from all types of school and college, and include a good number of international students. Details and a timeline for the application process can be found on the how to apply page.

Subject advice

Since most of the subjects in the course are not normally taught at school, there are no required subjects for ASNC applicants. We are looking for evidence of general ability in, and enthusiasm for, the kind of things you'll do in the course, such as learning new languages, studying literature, and analysing historical documents. Many applicants will be studying English, or History, or French, German, and other languages, or Latin, at school, all of which are perfectly suitable.

Pre-interview Admissions Assessment

All students applying for Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic at Cambridge must sit a pre-interview admissions assessment called the Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic Admissions Assessment (ASNCAA). This will take place in your school, college or local testing centre on 30 October 2019. The same assessment is used regardless of which College you have applied to. The Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic Admissions Assessment examines your academic abilities, knowledge-base and potential, and forms part of our holistic admissions process: there is no set score that we are looking for. When applying, it is important to be aware of the registration and assessment dates:

  • All Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic applicants applying in 2018 must be registered to take the Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic Admissions Assessment by 18:00 UK time on 15 October 2019. See how to be registered
    Please note that open centres may set an earlier deadline for accepting entries, and it is your responsibility to check if this applies at your centre.
     
  • All Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic applicants applying in 2018 sit the assessment on 30 October 2019.

Information about the assessment including example papers and subject content is available on the University Admissions website from March each year.

Written work 

After your application is received, you will be asked to send us two essays that you feel accurately reflect your abilities and interests. This should be work which has been prepared during the normal course of your studies and has already been marked by a teacher. We recommend that you keep a copy for your own reference as it may be discussed at interview. Full written work guidelines will be provided as part of the current applicants section on this website (published by 20 September each year).

Interviews

For candidates selected for interview in Cambridge, these are held in early December. Normally, you have two subject interviews, one of which includes discussion of your written work, while the other is based around a text (or texts) that you will have had a chance to study beforehand on the day of your interview. Further, more general information about interviews (including two useful films) is available in the Cambridge interviews section.

We also hold interviews in a number of locations overseas. If this may be relevant for you, please see the international students section.

Whilst we do not expect interviewees to already have detailed knowledge of the subject matter of the ASNC course, we hope to see evidence of some understanding of what the course involves, a lively general interest in medieval matters, intellectual curiosity and flexibility of mind. In the case of those who are especially interested in the language papers, we also look for linguistic ability.

Offers

Christ’s has regularly admitted students to read Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic. We do not have a fixed quota for the subject, but given the small size of the average intake of freshers across the university (approx. 25-30), like many other Colleges we have tended to have one ASNC student in any given year.

For those selected for a conditional offer at Christ’s, the typical offer is A*AA at A-level, 42 points overall in the IB with 7,7,6 in Higher Level subjects, or the equivalent for other examination systems.  The international students section has further information about typical offers for other qualifications. If you will have already finished school when you apply, please see the page for post-qualification applications.

Resources

Further information

If you're interested in applying for ASNC, do read the university course information for further details. There's also a great deal more about ASNC on the Department website, which includes details of the Department’s annual Open Day in June. This is an occasion when you can meet the teaching staff and some of the current students, and hear at first hand what the courses is all about in an informal atmosphere. It usually includes an opportunity to see some manuscripts or other primary sources at first hand, and, of course, you are very welcome to come to visit Christ's College before or after the Department Open Day.

Otherwise, if you are able to come to a College Open Day, we will be glad to tell you more about Christ's and studying Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic in person. If you are not able to come, please feel free to email any queries you have to the Christ's admissions team: admissions@christs.cam.ac.uk.
 

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