The significance of a myth is not easily to be pinned down on paper by analytical reasoning. It is at its best when it is presented by a poet who feels rather than makes explicit what its theme portends; who presents it incarnate to the world of history and geography as our poet has done [….] For myth is alive at once and in all its parts, and dies before it can be dissected.
—J. R. R. Tolkien – “The Monsters and the Critics” (1936)
This week Jeremy Solnick will be leading our discussion on the use of myth in Beowulf.
How do epic poets select their material from the storehouse of memory, history, myth and folklore available to them? Does this depend on social circumstances and on the themes which the poet wants to present to his or her audience? A great deal has been written about the themes and structure of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, but a thematic approach is not often taken. Much can be learned from the Beowulf poet about this craft.
Seamus Heaney, Beowulf: A New Translation (London: Faber and Faber, 2000), pp. 4-7, 24-25, 44-45, 48-51, 72-73, 84-85.
Myth Reading Group
Thursday 12 November
12:00-1:30pm Room 3.318
Poster and extracts: