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Introduction to Old English Poetry: Beowulf

ENGL 218.301
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Gold-hoards, dragons, creatures from the deep, a hero literally larger than life - this is the stuff of the oldest and, some think, the most beautiful of English epics, Beowulf. In this course we will master the basics of Old English grammar and poetics in order to read this classic poem in the original. We will also study the many cultures of Beowulf: 8th- to 10th-century literature, warfare, and religion; the charred 11th-century Beowulf manuscript, which includes Judith (who beheaded Holofernes), the Wonders of the East (cannibals), and Alexander's Letter to Aristotle (strange encounters in India); J.R.R. Tolkein's critical and creative responses to Beowulf; modern translations and adaptations, including Seamus Heaney's translation, Benjamin Bagby's recordings, John Gardiner's novel, Grendel and Roger Zemeckis's film, Beowulf.

Assignments may include weekly translations, short quizzes, a final paper, and participation in a final performance at the Kelly Writers House called Old English Live!  

No previous knowledge of Old English necessary!

Graduate Students interested in taking this course as a 506 should contact me directly: steinere@sas.upenn.edu