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You are invited to participate in this 6-week live online course every Thursday starting on Thursday, September 7th, at 2:00pm Eastern Time. Each session will be 2 hours long. The course will conclude on October 19th. (Note: No class on September 21th.)
The cost of this course will be $160 and is available through our Circle community. If you register for the course and are unable to catch one of the classes live, you will have access to the recorded class.
All materials will be provided, except for a copy of R.M. Liuzza's translation of Beowulf: https://www.amazon.com/Beowulf-Broadview-Literary-Texts-Liuzza/dp/1551111896
Week 1: Sailing out of the Mists of Myth - We will read the poem's prologue and get our first introduction to the world of Beowulf. The poem's main themes and structures will be introduced, and we'll also discuss some of the history of engagement with the poem. Why has this relatively obscure poem by an unknown monk skyrocketed into one of the most popular works of medieval literature? Is it Christian? Pagan? Is it a folk tale, a fairy tale, a myth, an epic, or a legend? And who is Shield Son of Sheaf anyway?
Week 2: Wyrd Goes as She Will - This week's lesson will be a deep dive (pun intended, as you'll see) into the poetics and nuances of speech in the heroic iron age, as the inhabitants of this profoundly dangerous culture try to save face as they ask for -- and offer -- aid. This lesson will take us all the way up to the threshold of the poem's first monster fight.
Week 3: Beowulf, Sigurd, and St. Michael - After a close reading of the fight with Grendel, we'll look at some of the curious pagan and Christian associations the poet brings in, and relate the poem to other Germanic monster-slaying myths, legends, and sagas. We will also discuss some of the most perplexing "episodes" in the poem, as the poet suggests comparisons and contrasts with other legendary heroes.
Week 4: Beowulf Goes to Hell - In this week, we'll read through what is sometimes considered the most important section in Beowulf, including the fight with Grendel's mother and Hrothgar's "sermon" at the dead center of the poem. This is in many ways the most "Christian" section of the poem, and it's here that we will consider connections to the ancient and medieval Christian apocalyptic and homiletic traditions.
Week 5: Until the Dragon Comes - In this week, we follow Beowulf home, and see his feuds, battles, victories, and reign of peace unfold "until the dragon comes." Beowulf's status as the hero par excellence of the Germanic iron age is called into questions as we discuss the limits of the heroic paradigm, the unspoken context of the feuds of Beowulf's people, and the potent image of the dragon in Germanic myth and legend.
Week 6: The Dragon - In our final week, we continue our discussion of the importance of the dragon. In the end, we are left with the question of what legacy Beowulf leaves the Geats as he passes on to his eternal reward. We will review the poem's beautiful, solemn, and ambiguous ending in light of the poem's dominant theme, and attempt to offer some kind of an answer as to what this story is "for."