Reading Beowulf

Moderator: Elizabeth Armstrong
Time: Wednesdays, 10 am-noon [Note: 8 week seminar begins March 9]
Place: Amherst Woman’s Club, 35 Triangle Street, Amherst
Parking: Ample parking on site

The purpose of this seminar is to familiarize ourselves with a foundational text of western culture; to learn something about the Old English language.

Written in Old English before the 10th century C.E., Beowulf describes the adventures of a great Scandinavian warrior of the 6th century. A rich fabric of fact and fancy, Beowulf is the oldest surviving epic in British literature.

The poem is strongly linked to the Germanic roots of the English nation and exhibits the characteristics of the English language before it was influenced by French, classical, and other non-Germanic cultures.

Unlike the heroic age figures described in Beowulf, the poet is living in a Christianized nation with a growing sense of itself as an English, rather than Germanic, nation. The poet and his readers are looking back several hundred years to explore the dark beginnings of their own antecedents.

These also are among the antecedents of today’s western countries and modern cultures and the legends evoked in Beowulf are part of our heritage.

Format: Seminar

Role of participants: Participants will be expected to attend the sessions with the assigned text in hand, to read sections aloud and discuss the readings with the class. For those who want to enrich their experience, optional supplemental materials and activities will be suggested by the moderator.

Number of participants (including the moderator): minimum of 6 (no max.)

Resources: Beowulf: a New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney, bilingual edition pub. 2000

The Moderator: Elizabeth Armstrong has conducted many seminars in literature, most recently The Art of the Novella.