So, we sit on the floor in the dark, clustered around a massive collection of candles, and listen to Seamus Haney read Beowulf to us. And it is magic.
Later that night, the students read Burton Raffel’s translation on their own, footnotes and all, and complete response journals that will begin our discussion the next day.
The morning I looked up and saw all three principals, two counselors, and the superintendent of schools sneaking in my classroom, I knew something was afoot. The superintendent’s son had come home, insisting his mother listen to Beowulf, the best story ever. (Note: the fire marshall did not appreciate the candles.)
Listening to Heaney, then reading Burton Raffel, works. Studying two translations provokes discussion that leads to other translations, and even to the evolution of our language. Activities below show this work’s richness.
My last word on the subject, “You are going to be so pleased that you have been intimate with Beowulf…when we read Grendel in the spring.”
Seamus Heaney’s translation is particularly accessible, what with only 14 footnotes in the whole text. YouTube audio version (Part 1 @ line 1 and Part 2 @ line 1492). Full Text (no line numbers).
Worksheet comparing and contrasting four translations.
Handout with thirteen translations of lines 710-736.
of the Epic
Adventures of Beowulf is a modern translation by David Breeden, a creative writing professor at Schreiner University, is very accessible. Includes excellent illustrations, including the drawings used on this page.
Annotated Beowulf uses The Harvard Classics translation by Frances B. Grummere with footnotes.
Beowulf in Cyberspace is a new modern translation with interesting original art. The site itself is quirky because of fancy scripting, but the glossary and illustrations are worth clicking a few times. Also check out the pictorial guide.
Beowulf in Hypertext uses The Harvard Classics translation by Frances B. Grummere with extensive sidenotes and explanations.
Electronic Beowulf is an image-based digitized version of the original manuscript.
A Work in Progress is Tim Romano’s modern translation.
Bulfinch Chapter 42 from Mythology is only a summary of Beowulf, but the links to background materials, illustrations, explanations, and analyses makes a visit worthwhile.
Warrior Gear -- imaginative
painting showing how King Rædwald might have looked wearing
the full regalia from Sutton Hoo (you may click on details of
the royal war-gear in that picture for more information).
Beowulf Shrinklit by Maurice Sagoff -- retells the whole story in rhyming couplets.
Beocat by Henry Beard -- a poetic parody.
“Beowulf” by Richard Wilbur -- a modern elegy.
Thug Notes(language warning).
Japanese Kamishibai -- a Japanese folk art popular in the 1920s and 1930s. The kamishibai cards had a story, illustrations, and a script on the back. Includes directions and middle-school samples based on the Robert Nye translation.
“World Without Heroes” by KISS Essay (yes).
“Beowulf to Batman: The Epic Hero and Pop Culture” by Roger B. Rollin (Abridged 3 pages with Close Reading Worksheet.) (Full 19-page College English article.) -- excellent way to introduce close reading of a critical article.
Exerpt from The Art of Beowulf by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur -- Focuses on analyzing each of the three battles.
“Heorot and the Guest-Hall of Eden: Symbolic Metaphor and the Design of Beowulf” by Alvin A. Lee -- symbolism of four significant episodes.
“Of Beowulf, Boxing,and the Ali Myth” by Edmund Fuller -- exceptional, heartbreaking Wall Street Journal about Ali’s defeat by Spinks. Works for text annotation, vocabulary in context, and powerful openings and endings. A favorite essay.
“Universal Hero” by Thomas Napierkowski -- Review of Heaney translation considers why the epic still speaks to us.
for the Epic
for the Epic
Extra Credit Options for the Epic:
Only 50 Points Allowed
The Beowulf Boast -- Write an original boast about yourself, in Anglo-Saxon style, and perform it for the class (50 points).
Epic Movie -- Watch an epic movie from an approved list and write an essay analyzing its epic qualities (50 points)
Modern Writing -- Write a modern version, analyze the epic’s relationship to modern terrorism, or apply concepts from the epic to your own life (50 points).
Essay Topic for Beowulf -- Write an essay on the topic given here.
Book of Kells -- Read the article about the Book of Kells, look at the sample images provided, do additional research yourself, and write a composition explaining the ways in which the illuminated designs can be connected to the structure of the epic Beowulf.
Outside Reading and/or Viewing -- Read one of the following versions of the Beowulf story and write a comparison contrast essay.
20 Questions for Discussion -- from Tulane University
Supporting a Thesis -- critical analysis
Sample Beowulf Essay -- “Until the Dragon Comes” by your teacher!
BBC In Our Time -- YouTube critical discussion.
BBC Treasures of the Anglo-Saxons covers multiple sites (one hour).
Course Hero Infographic -- for analysis or as a model for even better student designs (pritable as a poster from Acrobat).
Literary Elements -- Literary elements in Beowulf, also applied to a modern hero. (Group Activity from unknown teacher.)
Illustrations from amazon.com
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