Beowulf Day 6 pt 2 - Lost in Translation

"Beowulf Geata, be þæm gebroðrum twæm. Him wæs ful boren ond freondlaþu. wordum bewægned, ond wunden gold. estum geeawed, earmreade twa."          Beowulf

Beowulf Day 6 (Part 2)  - Lost in Translation: For the second part of this class - students will watch (and listen) to Benjamin Bagby performing an excerpt from Beowulf.  First, with modern English subtitles - and then without.

Lesson Overview 

There are two, and probably many more, ideas that can easily get lost when having students study Beowulf.  One of these is that the story was originally created in Old English.  The second is that it wasn't originally written down - but was instead sung in the very mead halls that good king Scyld is mentioned having snatched from the enemy.  This short (but I believe very powerful) lesson attempts to address those "lost" ideas.   The students will first watch and listen to the performer Benjamin Bagby, reading/singing an excerpt from Beowulf accompanied on his harp in the original Old English.  Importantly, it is a section that the students have read (twice - once on their own [gosh homework is important], and then a second time aloud in class).  While the students watch (without taking notes or doing anything else other than watching) they will follow along with the help of a subtitled translation.  Some of the more astute students will be able to recognize the reading that we have already gone over in class.

    Next, after about 8-10 minutes of this - I will turn the subtitles off.  The students are still required to pay close attention (we will go over the handout below, before we begin any watching) - and now they have to try to infer what is happening from the clues that are given.  1) Bagby's very elaborate gestures and facial expressions  2) the few words that are common to modern English  3) the story as they know it.  After about 5 minutes of unsubtitled Old English performance, the students are immediately given time to write down their reaction (see the handout).  They are instructed to write without stopping  until the bell rings.  Remember, this is the second part of today's class - the first part being given over to choosing their Beowulf Groups for Puttin on the Beowulf - and getting started on that project.  See the handout for more instructions.


Most Recent Handouts & Quizzes

Lost in Translation - Benjamin Bagby and Listening to Beowulf   Docx  PDF (see above Lesson Overview)  This handout, which is briefly gone over BEFORE you start watching Bagby perform will give students some guidance on how they should approach listening - what to look for - and what they will be writing down afterwards.

Audio Visual Content

There is a wonderful DVD of Benjamin Bagby performing that will allow you to present the lesson the same way that I did - HOWEVER, on YouTube there are videos with subtitles - and those without.  Here are two of them.  The  video on the left is the complete performance - with subtitles projected about Mr. Bagby.  The video on the right is a shorter excerpt, but the subtitles can be turned off.


Remote Enhancements 

Nothing that I have found...yet.  However - the video and the handout can certainly be a shared screen in any Remote Meeting.



Beowulf in Translation Group Work  DocX   PDF  Five Beowulf Translations PDF  This is a completely different lesson on Beowulf in Translaton that I used to utilize in my class  - before this Benjamin Bagby exercise came to be.   I believe it is a good and worthwhile lesson - it looks at different translations of Beowulf (using the same story excerpt) and has students - hopefully, on their own - discovering that translators must lose something when they are creating a translation - and that, in fact, translations exist as a work of art in their own right - but we need to acknowledge - they are different from what was originally created.  This lays the ground for many of the ideas that the students will encounter later in the form of Stephen Booth.

Class Recordings (for registered members)



What's Next

Poems before Grendel - A habit that I got into with my World Literature Classes: reading poems that are thematically linked to the novel we are about to begin.  


  Beowulf Day 6 Part 1 - Puttin on the Beowulf

Thoughts on the Lesson 

We used to do another different type of assignment on Translation - which I included up above.  It has the students look at brief parts of different translations in a group and try to come to the same big ideas.  However, I much prefer this lesson as it not only emphasises the idea of translation but also has students look at the oral versus written paradigm.