Tuesday 31 August 2010

Sutton Trust Summer School in ASNC

Dr Elizabeth Boyle writes:

From 17th - 20th August, the ASNC Department hosted our first Sutton Trust Summer School in Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic. The students who took part came from state schools all over the country, from Barnsley to Ross-on-Wye, Stockport to Peterborough, in order to experience life as an undergraduate at Cambridge. The School began with an introduction to Anglo-Saxon History from Prof. Simon Keynes, followed by an introduction to the Vikings from our Head of Department, Dr Máire Ní Mhaonaigh. As in the case of real undergraduate study, the information gained in these lectures was then consolidated in small-group supervisions on Anglo-Saxon and Viking-Age History, led by PhD students and Junior Research Fellows in the ASNC Department. In the afternoon, Dr Richard Dance introduced the students to the basics of the Old English and Old Norse languages, and again this was consolidated in supervisions which focused on Old English and Old Norse literature.

The second day began with an introduction to medieval Welsh language and literature from Dr Paul Russell. This involved lessons in how to hang a mouse in medieval Welsh (and if this makes no sense to you, I suggest you read the Mabinogi). Afterwards, I gave a seminar on medieval Irish literature, which included some lively discussion on the 'Death of Conchobar'. In the afternoon the students were given a research assignment in the reading room of the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, which resulted in some superb presentations on some of the Anglo-Saxon and medieval Welsh manuscripts in the Parker collection. The students then had the opportunity to see at first hand the manuscripts they had researched and spoken about.

The final morning included a lecture from Dr Fiona Edmonds on cultural contacts in early medieval Britain and Ireland, followed by supervisions on Celtic History led by post-doctoral researchers in the ASNC Department. The Summer School ended with a session on university admissions, applying to Cambridge, and opportunities for studying medieval culture more widely, which was led by Dr Andrew Bell, an Anglo-Saxon historian who is also Admissions Tutor at Gonville & Caius College. The aim of the Summer School was to offer students a taste of life as an ASNC undergraduate at Cambridge: the disciplinary breadth of the Department is such that the students got an intensive, whistle-stop tour of medieval languages, literature, history and palaeography over the course of a few brief days, but they were unflagging in their enthusiasm, their ability and their dedication. We hope that the Summer School will inspire all the participants to go on to university and to further their interest in the medieval world.

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