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Beowulf and Modern Culture

"Just don't take any course where they make you read Beowulf." (Woody Allen)

Texts for discussion:

Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney
Grendel by John Gardner
Articles by Barry and Rasenberger

Further research:

Films and TV: Star Trek Voyager episode Heroes and Demons.
Episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess - The Rheingold, The Ring, Return of the Valkyrie, You Are There.
The 13th Warrior dir. John McTiernan (1999) [Based on the novel by Crichton, below.]
Beowulf dir. Graham Baker (1999)
Beowulf and Grendel dir. Sturla Gunnarsson (2005)
Beowulf dir. Robert Zemeckis 2007

Novels: The Ring-Givers by W. H. Canaway.
Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton.
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien [particularly Book 3, Ch. VI: The King of the Golden Hall.]
The Legacy of Heorot and Beowulf's Children (published in the UK as Dragons of Heorot) by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes.

Secondary reading:

Jane Chance (ed.) Tolkien and the Invention of Myth: a Reader (2004)
Frantzen, Allen J., and John D. Niles, eds. Anglo-Saxonism and the construction of social identity (1997)
Paul Hill The Anglo-Saxons: the Verdict of History (2006)
Roger B Rollin "Beowulf to Batman: The Epic Hero and Pop Culture" College English 31 (1970); and Robert Barton "A Response to Rollin's 'Beowulf to Batman: The Epic Hero and Pop Culture'" College English 32 (1970).
You may also find the e-book Dragons in the Sky interesting.

Assignment Questions:

Using Heaney's translation of Beowulf and any others of the resources listed above, write an essay on one of the following questions:

1. 'Regardless of whatever associative similarities we may establish between Old English culture and our own, Old English literature fails to lose what has come to be called its essential "alterity"; its strangeness, or its difference from our habits of mind, modes of expression, and principles of social organisation'. Discuss.
2. 'Texts do not simply represent culture, they create it' (R.M. LIUZZA). What are the implications of this remark for modern readers of Old English?
3. 'The "timeless present" which is an essential characteristic of literature of the past can always be active in that of the present' (E.R.CURTIUS). Must the 'timeless present' be an essential characteristic of Old English literature? If so, what is it, and how do we read it in the 21st century? If you disagree with Curtius's statement, how would you characterise the practice of reading Old English literature now?