Treharne—The Shock of the Old: Early English and its Modern Re-Tellings

[The] various forms of recreation illustrate a desire on the part of many to work with Old English in some form to make it something new, whether it’s a private reading made public through the internet, a staged dramatic re-enactment, a translation proper, or a poem written “after” the original (like Auden’s Wanderer). Heaney’s Beowulf may not be the be-all and end-all (the so-called and mainly elusive “perfect” translation), but it—together with the work of many other poets—is a start: the beginning of a widespread acceptance that one doesn’t need to be an Anglo-Saxonist to work with Old English (academics who teach Old English do not own it, after all), that all translation is subjective, and that poetry can open doors to earlier periods, evoke a shared moment a millennium apart, perhaps more than any other form of human expression. For Anglo-Saxonists, it is often the “shock of the new,” the “translation,” that alarms; for the students, it is always the “shock of the old,” Old English. In either case, when these shocks become more familiar, there is curiosity at the new manifestation, and the accompanying sense of relief that we recognized it all along.

Source: Treharne—The Shock of the Old: Early English and its Modern Re-Tellings

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