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Courses / Modules / ENGL3079 Visions of Beowulf: New Encounters with Anglo-Saxon Culture

Visions of Beowulf: New Encounters with Anglo-Saxon Culture

When you'll study it
Semester 2
CATS points
ECTS points
Level 6
Module lead
Catherine Clarke
Academic year

Module overview

Written around the year 1000, the surviving manuscript of the Old English poem Beowulf represents just one version of a story which continues to inspire new translations and interpretations, critical debates and creative responses across a wide variety of genres and media. This module will approach the Old English Beowulf alongside its transformations and re-appropriations in modern literature and culture. Sources will range from direct translations to fiction inspired by the story, poetry, illustrations, graphic novels and film, and will encompass the work of writers including Seamus Heaney, John Gardner, Geoffrey Hill and J.R.R. Tolkien. We will focus on changing representations of the hero and the monsters he encounters, asking questions about how different audiences and contexts of reception, re-workings within different genres, and shifts in narrative perspective or focalisation can transform a text. Our readings will open up wider discussions about the uses of an imagined medieval past in modern culture, processes of literary tradition and translation, the writing of histories (national, literary, autobiographical) and even the formation of ‘English Literature’ as an academic discipline. Our analysis of modern re-workings and critical conversations will enable us to return to the Old English poem with nuanced readings and fresh interpretations.

No prior knowledge of Old English is required. The reading for this module will include recommended texts and editions as well as a wider selection of sources for study collected in a coursepack. Beowulf will be approached via modern translations and with the aid of glossaries, though there will also be opportunities to engage with the text in the original Old English.