I want to look at the Beowulf Study Sheet questions and Tara’s example together: Tell me: what makes her responses so good?
It is her systematic, specific “interweaving,” if you will, of her idea-then textual support; her idea-then __________________-pattern. She stays away from ____________________; she is in command of her ideas.
GENERAL READING ADVICE: It’s an oral text. If you are having trouble, read it aloud, and create different __________ for different characters (think ‘story time’ when you were kids! Have FUN.).
Watch Ben Bagby read Beowulf on ______________
THE GROUP/the ___________________ (where do we see similar fraternities today?)
___________ is an incredibly important value. “We are all brothers.” (Always keep in mind the tension between the __________________/leader and the ___________/followers. We need to be able to fulfill both roles appropriately.
Herot’s meadhall (Herot, “hart,” “stag”) represents order, loyalty, ________________.
________________(from Roman historian Tacitus): refers to the comradeship and solidarity that was so integral to Anglo-Saxon society (see handout for elaboration).
Alienation vs. Communion: the goblet/gold cup passed around in the meadhall versus the goblet stolen from the dragon at the end.
________________________________________: a modern book dealing with an age-old issue, that of
_______(Fortuna’s Wheel) vs. _____, Christian Free Will
--pagan --one, just God
--“eye for an eye” revenge --forgiveness “turn the other cheek”
--strength, ______, in battle --________ courage, humility
--warrior, comitatus code --love your __________ as yourself/peace out
--immortality: through _____ --eternal life earned through ______ and ___________ (New
Why does Beowulf leave home (Sweden/Geatland) to go deal with Grendel, who is not his problem?
He wants the ‘championship ring,’ fame! (like ________________ )
_____________________: why do we want to be remembered after we’re gone? (Or, do we?)
Be able to explain how Beowulf is a “_____________ text”: it marks a major transition between
________ and ____________ beliefs. It’s almost as if the characters are trying to convince themselves
that they are Christian.
It was told orally, between the 6th-_____ centuries A.D.(C.E.)
Written not before the 11th century A.D. (C.E.) (by Christian ________)
The Anglo-Saxons were a ________ people, not concerned much with the afterlife, but they wanted
courage and tested FATE (WYRD= “___________”)
Star Wars epic series: “May the force be with you.” (you choose between the good or the ‘Dark side.’)
They loved stories that demonstrated greatness, courage, and strength in battle.
Where do we have elements of ‘vigilante’ justice in our society? The Wild West
Killing doctors who perform abortions; terrorists
Gangs; the Mafia
_______ (shope, rhymes with _______): very important, revered in Anglo-Saxon society—they are the __________________, the ________________, the ___________________.
______________: the price of a man’s life; the Anglo-Saxon alternative to murderous revenge.
Where in our modern court system do we have ‘wergild’? civil trials
Beowulf'>Symbolism/Motifs in Beowulf:
Youth versus Age
Courage versus Cowardice
Light vs. Darkness
Maslow’s Hierarchy (extremely important handout for the entire year)
Figure D handout:
Fortune is depicted as ____________________________ (_____________).
Why a wheel? It’s _____________________, ______________.
Why a woman?
Games of chance: dice, the wheel of fortune, Lady Luck, fortune cookies, the lottery, etc.
We’ll keep in mind two main ideas throughout the year:
controlling force (indiscriminate and unobjective Fate, as on the Fortuna’s Wheel picture)
all-powerful, omnipresent God, who is ultimately good and looks out for mankind (Christian free
_____________ (early 6th century A.D.): a noble Roman who wrote The Consolation of Philosophy (Renaissance minds would’ve been very familiar with it) while in prison, on a treason charge. He was
innocent, but was bludgeoned to death. He was a Christian and knew he had been high on Fortune’s
Wheel. The book tries to answer the question, “Why bad things happen to good people.”
Important Questions to answer (based on pp 1-16 notes):
Why is it apt to say that Britain, too, is a “melting pot?”
Why did we come very close to studying Italian literature rather than British lit.?
If you were a woman, to which societies would you rather belong?
Explain how _____________ was more fortunate than England.
(Ann Rudkin exercise here)
Thoughts on Point of View (the ____________) and Beowulf:
POINT of VIEW/_____________: ALWAYS think about how the storyteller’s bias is influencing the reader’s ___________________ of the events or the characters.
“History is always ______________.” (How is this paradox true?)
Mean looking dog in Sandlot who, in reality, just wanted to play;
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, by A. Wolf
The Pain & the Great One, Judy Blume
Israeli vs. Palestinian
Parents vs. your point of view
Republicans vs. Democrats vs. Libertarians vs. …
American Indian vs. Cowboy: how is each group depicted in the old westerns?
(Two movies that have told the same story through American Indian eyes:
Last of the Mohicans, Dances With Wolves)
The ______________: the American version of the vigilante, Old Testament revenge code of justice found in Beowulf, before the presence of a formal justice or law enforcement system.
Beowulf, like all stories that begin as an oral tradition, has 3 major functions:
To ________________ (explains the prestige of the bard/poet/scop (shope), in the absence of satellite television, drama, and the other forms of entertainment we have today)
To teach the _______________________ we should aspire to;
To preserve ______________ (in a preliterate society)
Let’s talk about #2 further for a moment:
In these kinds of didactic (purpose is to teach) adventure stories, the characters tend to be ____________________; there is no doubt who’s good or bad, who deserves our rooting for them.
That’s also why we are so attracted and excited by athletic and sporting competitions—unlike most of life, we know we’re supposed to cheer for the Purples, we don’t worry that people will be killed or maimed, YET the set-up of the game mimics those games of war with the age-old objectives of claiming power, domination, and bragging rights.
Like Cinderella and the other princess stories, romance novel heroines: why do we tell these stories to young children and teenage girls?
The REALITY, however, is that man has a _____________________; that is, each of us is full of _____________, complexities; just as Hamlet and countless others have lamented and marveled, within each of us resides the potential to create breathtaking beauty, to offer unthinkable acts of courage and generosity; likewise, the potential for us to wreak horror and commit unspeakable acts against each other is strong as well.
This is why Cinderella is ok when we’re five, but as we grow more mature, we seek stories that try to address those complexities with which we are grappling.
John Gardner’s Grendel (c. 1971) imagines a much more complex, philosophical, even sympathetic creature than the cruel, sadistic, animal-monster the Anglo-Saxons portray.
We also fight a constant tension of opposites:
our laziness against inertia;
the easier option to be a sheep;
our deep-seated desire/need to be accepted (the group vs. the individual)
The human species, as illustrated so obviously in Beowulf, has always had to rely on one another, not just for physical but emotional survival (think about Maslow’s Hierarchy!)
What you should study for our Anglo-Saxon/Beowulf Exam:
Review pp. 18-19; pp. 21-46; and pp. 1-16 (the intro. Material)
* Anything having to do with our study of the Anglo-Saxon period and Beowulf.
Format of Exam:
Multiple Choice; Matching; Short Answer; Essay
I am trying to make sure you know specific details about the historical period and the Beowulf epic; but I am also very, very interested, as I design your exam, in making sure you are “getting” the BIG IDEAS, ISSUES (what are they?)
1. COMITATUS (communion, unity) vs. ALIENATION
2. FATE (Fortuna) vs. FREE WILL
3. How is Beowulf a “conflicted text”?
4. POINT of VIEW
5. Dual nature of man: one-dimensional vs. “real” characters
Other Hero Epics, Allegories for Beowulf:
Star Wars: Luke goes into the cave and confronts his father’s ghost (also like Hamlet); we all try to keep our Grendel buried deep within.
Sigourney Weaver: Alone, like Beowulf, after her crew members have been killed. Bravery/must keep her wits about her.
Alien/Grendel: Travels in darkness, alone, in shafts of the spacecraft. Inhuman, bestial; kills victims in ignoble, horrible, disfiguring manner; cannibalizes, like Grendel.
Sigourney Weaver must face evil alone—the spacecraft is her “cave.”
She thinks Grendel is dead, that she’s safe, just as Hrothgar and the Danes believe they are safe.
Grendel’s mother: the 2nd time Weaver must face the alien.
Ash: Robot/inhuman, too. Enemy in the midst of the crew. Antithesis of comitatus.
Here’s a fun quote from an English Teacher: “My favorite word is ‘relentless.’” –John Williamson
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