March 21, 2004


We got most of the way through The Wife’s Lament in my Old English class this week. Next week we’ll finish it off and read the fairly short Wulf and Eadwacer. I’m saving the last week of term to do Old English riddles with the class, but that leaves a good week open, so I put it to a vote as to what text to read next. The group decision was to read parallel exerpts from Beowulf and Judith, so the sections I chose were the dismemberment passages: Beowulf’s fight with Grendel and the tearing off of his arm (ll. 809-836), Beowulf’s fight with Grendel’s mother (ll. 1557-1590), and Judith’s decapitation of Holofernes (ll. 94b-121). It should be both fun and thematically interesting. Indeed, I’m quite happy with the passages I settled on.

I’m also pleased with some of the topics I’ve got my students working on for the final essay. In particular, I’ve got a couple of students working on word studies, a topic close to my own heart. One is working on the word uht, a word that means ‘dusk, the period before dawn’, and its various compounds (such as uhtcearu ‘sorrow at dawn’). Another might be working on compounds such as eorþscræf ‘earth cave’ and eorþsele ‘earth hall’, which might have also have the connotation of ‘grave’. These are interesting words and should produce good essays. I’m really looking forward to reading what my students come up with.

I’ve also been getting much encouraging feedback from students lately, from both my Old English class and my Effective Writing class. At least I know I’m doing something right. I’m glad to hear that I’ve been able to make my classes both useful and interesting.

Posted by Mark at March 21, 2004 12:46 AM

i’m a knitblog reader who’s gotten intrigued by your recipes! And, I wanted to ask what your opinion is of Seamus Heany’s Beowulf.

Posted by: Julie M. at March 21, 2004 08:25 PM

Heaney’s Beowulf is certainly an interesting read. He does some interesting things with sound and rhythm, which are aspects often ignored by other translators. However, it’s not the most accurate of translations. If you want an accurate idea of what the Old English poem actually says, you might want to go with something like Roy Liuzza’s translation or the translation in S.A.J. Bradley’s Anglo-Saxon Poetry. I think at the moment my current favourite is Liuzza’s. Still, as a poem in it’s own right, Heaney’s version has some merit. And if it gets people to read the poem, I’m all for it. There is an edition with Heaney’s translation on one side of the page and the original Old English text on the facing page.

Posted by: Mark at March 21, 2004 11:41 PM