College English, Vol. 3, No. 6 (Mar., 1942), pp. 562-568
Published by: National Council of Teachers of English
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/370947
Beowulf, of precarious provenance—the single surviving, crumbling manuscript bears the scorch marks of an 18th-century library fire—has traveled across a thousand years to lodge in our imagination like some kind of radioactive space nugget. A story from a pre-Christian era written down by an anonymous Christian, in alliterative Old English verse, it has an otherness, a real frosty interstellar otherness, but also a mysterious resonance. It’s holding something for us, this poem, the value of which is inseparable from its long and lonely transmission. And so we keep going back to it, we wonderingly retell it, testing it on our tongues like the syllables of a dream. The past 20 years alone have given rise to two feature films, a TV series, and no fewer than four graphic novels based on the poem, including one released this January.
Anno MMXIV Æfterra Geola – In þissum monaðe ond in Solmonaðe greate wind ond regen oft sloh Brytene ond macode grēatne flōd on wonglande ymb Pedride in Sumorsǣtnum.
A new update of the TOE, really useful resource for students of Old English… especially with its thematic cataloguing system.
Drift’s particular heft derives from its investment in Anglo-Saxon. Unlike Chaucer’s language, which, as I suggested earlier, was shaped by the Norman winners, Anglo-Saxon is the lost (or suppressed) dialect of the losers. Now, one should not get too melodramatic about this. English is still a Germanic, not a Romance, language. Even so, to go back to “The Seafarer” is to return the language to its German roots, to seek its origins across the North Sea and not across the English Channel. What is more, to ground our origins in “The Seafarer” (and not in Beowulf, say, or “The Dream of the Rood”) is to read into Anglo-Saxon an existential pathos of suffering, errancy, and loss.
I’m interested in this ‘undefined belief that we enrich the self-understanding of our communities.’ Contemplative pedagogy and attention to the affective domain have helped me define this belief a little more sharply and advocate on its behalf to my colleagues. Epistemologies that are intuitive, affective, imaginative, ‘shamanic,’ or even ‘mystical’ can complement rather than compete against reverence for the scholarly process and attention to difference. That is, we can cultivate enthusiasm for the process of deepening a sense of self through transformative encounters with the Other; at the same time, we can cultivate humility when faced with the prospect that we may never really know the Other.