has commented on the lines you will be translating. His comments
can be found at the end of his dual-language edition in DuBois.
is here. An on-line
database of sources of Old English.
Sean Crist's Bosworth-Toller and others is here.
The Labyrinth, resources for medieval studies is here.
Problem downloading the Wessex font? Fuggedaboutit. Newer browsers
should be able to read the newly installed OE letters fine.
Translate as many lines as you can. HINTS:
Remember what we discussed in class:
- Find the clause boundary
(semicolon or period).
- Find words you know
(pronouns, articles, etc.)
- Isolate endings,
and find words without typical endings: possible subjects?
- To the dictionary:
- To the chart: get
- Get poetic.
Paper Topics. Paper is 5-7 pages or longer--satisfy the
demands of the topic, not the length. This is an explorative
paper meant to exercise your mind in anticipation of the
final paper. (It will be graded accordingly.) Graduate students,
please discuss relevant secondary sources.
does Beowulf compare to one of the sagas we
have read? Choose an element of plot, character, or style.
For example, both the Volsungsaga and Beowulf describe
the pursuit of a hoard of gold; how do the tales compare
in their treatment of wealth? Other examples might be songs,
tales, armor, magic, and so forth. (Grads, describe one
motif or element and its cultural/traditional significance.
its relevance to the poem.)
is the Finnsburh episode placed where it is placed? What
does it contribute to our understanding of that moment
Heorot is named after a hart. Christian tradition says
the white hart is the enemy of snakes (and dragons) and
represents Christ. Norse tradition suggests other representations.
of the name of the Hall in Norse and Christian tradition?
How does that contribute to our appreciation of Beowulf?
2. Oral Formulaic
A. Contemporary readers value an author's artistry insofar as
it is somehow unique. Ruminate on the ramifications of an
oral poem whose formulae are age-old. Is our valuation of
a poet's unique artistry merely displaced to an author called
"tradition"? Or displaced to the uniqueness of his/her organization
of formulae? Why is uniqueness aesthetically valuable?
B. Recurrent images, lines, and words tie together sections of
the poem. What is the effect of that constant self-reference
on the reader/auditor? How does it shape our understanding
of the poem? Speak to these questions by isolating
one or two formulae (e.g., þæt
C. How does the recurrence of formulae compromise our sense of
character in this poem? If certain men and women are characterized
by long-standing formulae, are their characters also of long-standing?
Agree or disagree and explain.
3. Big Themes
A. Transience: things pass away, all is impermanent.
contribution to or qualification of this theme.
B. Diplomacy and Violence: peace is unstable without
the threat of war. Discuss Beowulf in light of the
contrast between the art of peace weaving and the call to
juridical violence (i.e., an eye for an eye). Consider Wealþeow,
Grendel's mother, Hildeburh, or other similarly grouped characters.
C. Kingship: what is a good king? Consider kings
throughout the poem. Consider, also, that the dragon rules
a hall, sits on treasure, and is feared. Compare to kings
and queens of the sagas (and/or of Christian tradition).
D. Monsters. Grendel is the kin of Cain, and thus
ultimately human. How does this tidbit affect our understanding
of the role of monsters in this poem? What is the role of
monsters in this poem?
4. Literary Criticism
A. Close Reading. Choose a passage of ten lines or
so and describe the poem's artistry. Explain how this passage
and the implications of your translation speak to some of
the larger ideas at issue in the poem.
B. Feminism. How would you read this poem differently
if you knew it had been written by a woman? Or if you knew
the manuscript had been owned by a woman? Discuss some implications.
C. Philology. There are significant points in the
poem which depend upon our translation of syððan. One
is at 6b. Describe how this word functions in the poem with
respect to time and fate.
D. Philology 2. The term maþelode is used to
introduce speeches. How does it compare to secgan and other
similar terms? What can we infer from the use of these terms
about the role of speech in Beowulf?
5. Your own topic. Please discuss with me before embarking.