Beowulf’s Afterlives Three-Year Seminar

A Glasscock Center Three-Year Seminar (2016-19)

Seminar Director:
Britt Mize |Associate Professor, Department of English, Texas A&M University

The Old English epic Beowulf has been reinvented in hundreds of modern forms: novels in many genres, films, comic books and graphic novels, children’s books, opera and other musical settings, stage plays, board and video games, depictions in the visual arts, and more. It has been refashioned and appropriated by self-help authors (“Beowulf for Business”), social critics (“How Beowulf Can Save America”), and religious groups (fundamentalist Christian and Asatrú) in support of various ideologies and belief systems.

This seminar will examine this enormous variety of cultural production, asking always what the “uses” of Beowulf seem to be as it is continually retooled to suit a multitude of perspectives and desires. The seminar’s inquiry will include the cross-disciplinary fields of Adaptation Studies, Media Studies, and Cultural Studies, and will give sustained consideration to the paradox that lies at the heart of most acts of adaptation: adaptations simultaneously celebrate the perceived cultural authority of the original, and proffer a surrogate or replacement for it. Beowulf adaptations offer a chance to consider from many angles the questions of how, why, and to what ends society values and remakes the past.

Each year of the seminar will have a thematic center with which a symposium and a series of local meetings will interact. Year 1, “Textual/Pictorial,” considers static media (mostly books), with emphasis on the media-crossing interaction of text and image in many types. That year’s symposium will focus on a particularly image-heavy type of text, children’s versions (of which there are about 100 in English alone). Year 2, “Audio/Visual,” considers moving media or events (mainly film and music), and features a symposium “Beowulf in Motion.” Year 3, “Social/Interactive,” focuses on reimaginings of Beowulf that ask people to take a participant role in some sense (literally or through ideological investment), and the symposium that year will be “Doing Beowulf.”

Seminar Activities

2016-17 Academic Year

22-23 September 2016
Beowulf for Younger Readers Symposium
Location: 311 Glasscock Building and Liberal Arts and Humanities Building
Symposium schedule