Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Poets and Poems: J.R.R. Tolkien and “Beowulf”

Like most Americans of a certain age, I first met Beowulf in an English class in high school. I know exactly where I met him – in a classroom on the second floor of the school, in a textbook entitled England in Literature. It was an all-boys high school, so the story of Beowulf, Grendel and Grendl’s mother held our attention more than more works – we couldn’t resist lots of blood and gore, ogres eating knights for snacks, and arms getting whacked off?

I ran across Beowulf again in college, in an English literature class my sophomore year. Being a mixed-gender class and something more serious than high school students thinking of graduation, we focused on the epic poem itself, its structure and narrative, its history and the various literary theories about it. (Am I something of a cretin to say the blood and gore approach was more engaging?)

In the 1980s, I was reading John Gardner’s fiction, and discovered his short novel Grendl, telling the Beowulf story from Grendl’s point-of-view.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

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