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Recommended Introductory (and Intermediate) Readings on Beowulf:



General
cover Orchard, Andy. A Critical Companion to Beowulf. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2003.
[this new book comprehensively reviews the major questions and issues of the Beowulf poem, such as provenance, structure, theme etc., as well as advancing new ideas in a number of areas]

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cover Baker, Peter S. The Beowulf Reader: basic readings. New York: Garland, 1995.
[a collection of more recent essays on Beowulf, from the last quarter century; a nice complement to the Fulk anthology (see below)]

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beowulf handbook cover Bjork, Robert E. & John D. Niles (eds). A Beowulf Handbook. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.
[this is a comprehensive collection of chapters on a vast range of topics pertaining to Beowulf - including Date & Provenance, Prosody & Metre, Structure & Unity, Christian & Heathen Elements, Myth & History, Symbolism & Allegory, Social Milieu, Theme, Gender Roles, and others. I would highly recommend this book as a bridge from the basic introductions to more advanced reading on specific topics. It also includes an extensive up-to-date bibliography with a list of books and articles (each briefly summarised) in each chapter -- which is extraordinarily useful for those wishing to delve deeper in some particular aspect of Beowulf]

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Chambers, Raymond W. Beowulf: an introduction to the study of the poem with a discussion of the stories of Offa and Finn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921 (2nd rev. ed., 1932).
[classic introduction, with especial focus on the historical and folkloric elements of the poem; with excerpts from 'analogues' of Beowulf]

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cover Chickering, Howell D., Jr. (ed.). Beowulf: a dual-language edition. New York: Anchor (Doubleday), 1977.
[dual language edition with good critical notes, explanations & discussions; may be less intimidating to beginners than Klaeber (see below)]

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Clark, George. Beowulf. Boston: Twayne, 1990.
[excellent and accessible examination of various aspects of the poem - esp. the heroic narrative tradition, with discussion of some of the scholarly & critical issues surrounding Beowulf]

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Fulk, Robert D. (ed.) Interpretations of Beowulf : a critical anthology. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991.
[one of the best collections of prominent studies of Beowulf, taken from journal articles and excerpted chapters of longer books - includes J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Beowulf: the Monsters & the Critics']

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Irving, Edward B., Jr. A Reading of 'Beowulf'. New Haven (Conneticut): Yale University Press, 1968.
[sensitive close readings of the poem; focussing on the representation of the Hero, the Monstrous and Conflict in the poem]

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Irving, Edward B., Jr. Rereading Beowulf. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989.
[very good 'revision' of the author's interpretation of the poem; again including very insightful close readings; includes important observations of the gap between what modern readers may expect of a story and what sorts of things a 'oral-formulaic' poem like Beowulf desires to express, and what it is capable of expressing]

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klaeber red cover Klaeber, Frederick (ed.). Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg. Lexington, Massachusetts: D.C. Heath, 1950 (3rd ed. with 1st & 2nd supplements).
[this is the 'standard' edition of Beowulf used by modern scholars and students; however, it also includes very useful introductory materials on aspects such as the Historical, the Fabulous, etc. which will be of interest even to neophyte students]

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Köberl, Johann. The Indeterminacy of Beowulf. Lanham (Maryland): University Press of America, 2002.
[a comprehensive treatment of various ambiguities, indeterminacies & ambivalencies (e.g. the historical vs. the fabulous, the heroic vs. the monstrous) in Beowulf - both of the text itself and in the interpretations of modern scholars]

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newton - beowulf pre viking kingdom east anglia cover Newton, Sam. The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia. Woodbridge (Suffolk): The Boydell Press, 1993.
[fascinating study which highlights the connexions between Beowulf and the famous Anglo-Saxon funerary ship-burial at Sutton Hoo]

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Robinson, Fred C. Beowulf and the Appositive Style. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985.
[study of how the grammatical style of the poem, e.g. the use of apposition, is part of the poet's narrative technique for the treatment of his themes]

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Tripp, Raymond P., Jr. Literary Essays on Language and Meaning in the Poem Called Beowulf: Beowulfiana Literaria. Lewiston (New York): Edwin Mellon, 1992.
[a collection of essays which approach aspects of the poem from unusual and interesting perspectives; provides new interpretations of various elements of Beowulf, some differing radically from the 'received' view of the poem]

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The 'Beowulf Manuscript'
kiernan beowulf manuscript Kiernan, Kevin. Beowulf and the Beowulf Manuscript. New Brunswick (New Jersey): Rutgers University Press, 1981 [2nd ed., Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996].
[a detailed and interesting close study of the Beowulf MS. and its relation to the poem itself; Kiernan's conclusions on the date of composition of Beowulf (as contemporaneous with the 10th/11th-century 'Beowulf' MS. itself) remains controversial; the most exhaustive study of the 'Beowulf' MS. itself]

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electronic beowulf - kiernan Kiernan, Kevin (ed.)with Andrew Prescott, Elizabeth Solopova, David French, Linda Cantara, Michael Ellis & Cheng Jiun Yuan (asst. eds.). Electronic Beowulf. London & Ann Arbor (Michigan): The British Library and The University of Michigan Press, 1999.
[The Electronic Beowulf provides a comprehensive collection of images of the entire composite codex, British Library MS Cotton Vitellius A. xv, including the Southwick Codex and the Nowell Codex (which contains the Beowulf manuscript). It also includes linked images of many hundreds of readings hidden by the nineteenth-century paper frames; the complete eighteenth-century Thorkelin transcripts of Beowulf in the Danish Royal Library; and two early nineteenth-century collations (one by John Conybeare in 1817, and one by Sir Frederic Madden in 1824) of the 1815 first edition by Thorkelin with the manuscript, before it was rebound in the paper frames. Supporting the digital images, The Electronic Beowulf features an SGML-encoded transcript and edition, both displayed in HTML for viewing with a network browser. Powerful search facilities for both the transcript and the new edition facilitate extensive and varied investigations of the manuscript as well as of an edited version of it that engages readers in the paleographical and linguistic challenges the manuscript poses.]

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zupitza beowulf facsimile Zupitza, Julius (ed.) with Norman Davis (rev. ed.). Beowulf (Facsimile). London: Oxford University Press, 1959 (2nd ed.).
[the classic black-and-white facsimile of the Beowulf MS. - includes a parallel diplomatic transcription of the text; useful introduction]

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The Dating of Beowulf
dating of beowulf Chase, Colin (ed.) The Dating of Beowulf. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981 [2nd ed., 1997].
[a collection of papers exploring possible dates of composition for the poem, with arguments from different perspectives: linguistic, historical, palaeographical, etc.]

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Slade, Benjamin. 'Kaluza's Law and the Dating of Beowulf'. Ms., 2003. [available online at http://www.heorot.dk]
[provides an overview for dating Beowulf with respect to the archaic nature of its metre]

available free online
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availible free @ heorot.dk




'Heathenism' and 'Christianity' in Beowulf
Klaeber, Frederick. 'Die christlichen Elemente im Beowulf'. Anglia 35 & 36 (1911-12). reprinted in English translation by Paul Battles as The Christian Elements in Beowulf. Kalamazoo: The Medieval Institute/Richard Rawlinson Center for Anglo-Saxon Studies, Western Michigan University (=Old English Newsletter Subsidia 29), 2000.
[classic essay on the Christian (and 'allegorical Christian') elements in Beowulf, now available in English translation]

only available from the Medieval Institute:
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cover - heathen gods in old english North, Richard. Heathen Gods in Old English Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
[contains interesting studies of various Old English poems (including Beowulf); explores possible 'heathen' Germanic themes(/structures/traces) in Old English poems - many original and intriguing ideas]

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Schneider, Karl. Sophia Lectures on Beowulf. Shoichi Watanabe & Norio Tsuchiya, eds. Tokyo: Japan Science Society, 1986.
[intriguing studies of the 'Indo-European' religion (or traces thereof) and its ceremonies, symbols, & ethics in Beowulf]

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Slade, Benjamin. '...þrym gefrunon, ...helle gemundon: Indogermanic shruti and Christian smriti in the Epistemology of Beowulf'. paper given at 38th International Congress on Medieval Studies. Kalamazoo (Michigan), 2003 [available online at http://www.heorot.dk].
[explores the Indo-European roots of mythic themes of divine deluges directed against giants, argues that many of the 'Christian' episodes of the poem have possible (and probable) 'heathen' roots (either in lieu of, or in addition to 'Christian' roots)]

available free online
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Introductory (and inexpensive) Old English language books
cover Clark Hall, J.R. (ed.) A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1894 (4th ed. 1960). supplement by H.D. Meritt. reprinted, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984 [Medieval Academy reprints for teaching, 14].
[handy and inexpensive Old English -> modern English dictionary; very useful for the student]

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cover Hasenfratz, Robert & Thomas J. Jambeck. Reading Old English: a primer and first reader. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2005.
[this new grammar is extremely comprehensive, covering all important elements of Old English grammar, and suitable for classroom or independent (autodidact) student. The book is aimed at having students quickly being able to read (and translate) Old English, including many OE selections and a glossary. Also includes exercises (translating to and from OE). Charmingly includes grammatical explanations from Ælfric himself(an Anglo-Saxon grammarian).]

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cover - guide to old english - mitchell Mitchell, Bruce (with Fred C. Robinson). A Guide to Old English. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001 [6th ed.].
[fairly accessible introductory Old English grammar, includes readings]

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Marckwardt, Albert H. & James L. Rosier. Old English: language and literature. New York: Norton, 1972.
[I find this grammar more comprehensive and systematic then either the Mitchell or Pollington grammars/guides; but many beginning students will probably prefer Pollington or Mitchell - Marckwardt & Rosier may be better suited to students with some previous knowledge of linguistics or of other languages like Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, etc. One notable feature is that it includes materials for reading OE manuscripts in the original, info on Anglo-Saxon scribal script/handwriting. Includes readings and exercises (but as an advanced and quick-reference grammar, I would recommend Quirk & Wrenn [see below])]

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cover - old english first steps Pollington, Stephen. First Steps in Old English: an easy to follow language course for the beginner. Hockwold-cum-Wilton (Norfolk): Anglo-Saxon Books, 1997.
[another accessible introductory Old English grammar; set-up in the form of 'lessons', probably good for classroom-use and self-instruction; includes readings and exercises]

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cover - old english - quirk wrennQuirk, Randolph and C.L. Wrenn. An Old English Grammar. London: Methuen, 1957.
[excellent reference grammar; the best amongst the small grammars of Old English; but it is not meant as a teach-yourself book, and does not have exercises, readings, etc.; very nice chapters on phonology, morphology, which relate Old English and its development to other Indo-European languages - very useful for linguistics or those with knowledge of Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, etc. (i.e. classical languages)...or German, Dutch, Old Icelandic, etc. (i.e. other Germanic languages, modern or ancient); highly recommended reference grammar & also is a nice 'bridge' to more advanced grammars like Siever's Angelsächsische Grammatik/Altenglische Grammatik (also translated as An Old English Grammar), or Campbell's Old English Grammar, or Mitchell's Old English Syntax]

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cover - old english - hoggHogg, Richard. An Introduction to Old English. Edinburgh & Oxford: University of Edinburgh & Oxford University, 2002.
[A very good introduction to Old English language. Wide coverage of grammatical aspects of Old English, notably including syntax, which is often neglected in OE handbooks. However, it contains only very short texts and glossary (and likewise brief exercises), and thus would need to be supplemented with other books (e.g., Mitchell & Robinson, or Pollington, etc.) for a full set of materials to gain the ability to read basic OE prose (and poetry).]

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McLaughlin, John. Old English Syntax: a handbook. Sprachstrukturen, A4. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1983.
[An excellent, comprehensive handbook on Old English Syntax. Highly recommended.]

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Some Old English Recordings/Audio-Resources for Beowulf
Seamus Heaney Audio Recording of Beowulf Heaney, Seamus (translator & reader). Beowulf. [modern English language recording; 2 CDs] Sue Roberts (Producers). Penguin Audiobooks & HighBridge Company; Unabridged edition (June 15, 2000).
[Heaney reads his own Modern English translation of Beowulf; nicely done]

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Beowulf dramatic recording - Chaucer Studios Chaucer Studio = Rendall, Tom (director & voice-actor), with Harvey DeRoo, Robert Stevick, Tom Burton, Thomas Chase, Kamal Fox, Mary-Ann Stouck, Stephen Partridge (voice actors). Beowulf: a dramatic reading in the original language. [Old English recording; 3 CDs]. supported by University of Adelaide, Adelaide (Australia) & Brigham Young University, Provo (Utah) [w/ additional support from University of Macau, Taipa (Macau)]. Recorded at Simon Fraser University Audio/Visual Centre, British Columbia (Canada) -- Chaucer Studios / Australian & New Zealand Association for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, 2000.
[wonderful original language (=Old English) recording, characters are played by various voice-actors; best Old English audio rendering of the poem]

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Chaucer Studio
Chaucer Studio


nb: this Beowulf recording may still not yet be listed in Chaucer Studio's catalogue.

In this case, to purchase contact Dr. Paul Thomas

and/or send a cheque for US$20, including postage, made in favour of 'The Chaucer Studio' to:
Prof. Paul R. Thomas,
Department of English,
Brigham Young University,
Provo, UT 84602-6218,
USA


cover - Trevor Eaton - Old English Beowulf recording Eaton, Trevor. Reads Beowulf. [unabridged Old English recording; 2 CDs]. Pavilion Records & Pearl [audio], 1997.
[Old English language recording of entire poem of Beowulf; reading is very rapid (too rapid in my opinion), I would recommend instead the Chaucer Studio dramatic recording (see above)]

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