Dr Caroline J A Brett
Fellow, Director of Studies
Girton College is built on the site of an early Anglo-Saxon cemetery. Some of the artefacts discovered there in the late 1800s may be seen in the College museum, the Lawrence Room. Girtonians have played a large part in creating the Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic course in its present form. Dame Bertha Phillpotts, a pioneer of early Icelandic studies, was Mistress of Girton in 1922-5, and Nora K. Chadwick, expert on Celtic Britain, was Director of Studies here in 1950-62.
The Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNC) Tripos offers an academic course not available in any other university: the study of the history, culture, languages, and literature of the different peoples who inhabited the British Isles, Brittany, and Scandinavia during the earlier middle ages. Students may combine options on linguistic and literary subjects (principally Old English, Old Norse, Middle Welsh, Old and Middle Irish, and Medieval Latin) with those in relevant historical and archaeological areas of interest (Anglo-Saxon England; Viking-Age Scandinavia, and Iceland, the Faroes, Shetland, and Orkney; Scotland, Mann, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany in the early and central middle ages, A.D. 400-1200). With such variety of choice available it is not surprising that in any given year most ASNC undergraduates offer a strikingly individual range of options!
Since most ASNC subjects do not feature regularly on school curricula, no previous knowledge is expected or required, and all can be approached from scratch. Keenness and commitment are, however, absolutely essential; ASNC is an intellectually demanding course, and intending students are strongly advised to read widely in their particular areas of interest before making a choice. Since an ability to cope with languages (whether ancient or modern) is so important an aspect of our work, Girton College usually will not admit students without one language at A Level to read ASNC.
ASNC graduates pursue all kinds of careers ranging from the civil service, law, teaching and management consultancy to journalism, photography and acting. Alumni say that job interviewers tend to latch on to ASNC in their CV, regarding it as an interesting talking point and the sign of an original and enquiring mind.
For those wishing to pursue postgraduate studies in an ASNC-related field, the Department offers a one-year MPhil course which may lead to a PhD. Research and postgraduate students are admitted to the University by the Board of Graduate Studies. You must therefore apply centrally and not to the College, however you must be admitted to a College to be able to study at the University. To ensure that this is Girton you need to indicate this on your application form.