Grendel Day 10 - Grendel in Ourselves - An Essay on Literature & Diversity

 "I like to think that John Gardner's view will hold: that language—informed, shaped, reasoned—will become the hand that stays crisis and gives creative, constructive conflict air to breathe, startling our lives and rippling our intellect. ''  Toni Morrison

Grendel Day 10  - Grendel in Ourselves - An Essay on Literature and Diversity (a reaction to the essay "Grendel & his Mother" by Toni Morrison): I despair sometimes at the disdain that some teachers have for teaching literature that is older than 10 years - or that is part of the "canon".  No one better explains (except perhaps Stephen Booth) why, exactly, it is so necessary to do so.  This essay assignment is a reaction piece to her essay.

Lesson Overview 

I have had a number of different essays to go along with Grendel - or with Beowulf & Grendel - and this is the latest and the one that I feel is the most useful in so many ways.   Not only is it on Grendel (and Beowulf), it also addresses one of the fundamental questions that students ask.  Why do we read this stuff?  Toni Morrison, in her essay, "Grendel and his Mother" explores the power of Great Literature that transcends the time it was written in.  This is an idea that is fundamental, but to me seems so lost in the arguments around teaching Great Literature today.  It is not that we need to limit ourselves to the "canon".  But there are so many great things there that ultimately can help inform our reading of all literature - and that canon is not limited to one group but can, in fact, be found in so many wonderfully diverse places.

I apologize for the form of the essay (pictures of the handout) but it only existed on Google Classroom and I never made a real bonafide handout with it (until now).  There are three prompts for the student to choose from.   Prompt A is about the value of reading texts beyond our time and culture.  Prompt B does not rely on Morrison's essay and uses the epigraph from  Grendel ("if the babe is born...") and has the students compare the idea of suffering and resiliency with the shaper and our lives.  Prompt C returns to Morrison's essay and asks the writer to explain Morrison's belief that "language" can give us a creative life - and helps us in times of crisis.

The last year that I taught - I had the students read the essay for homework and to cover her text with their notes.  They then did the essay as in class writing.

I do not own the copyright to Toni Morrison's essay - and cannot give a copy below.  It is found in a collection of her essays - "The Source of Self Regard"

Handouts & Quizzes 

Most Recent Handout:

Grendel and Ourselves - An EssayDocx  PDF  

This is an essay the students can write in response to Toni Morrison's "Grendel and his Mother".  See the above Lesson Overview.

Audio Visual Content

Remote Enhancements 

A short little Power Point that I used when I did this (for the first time) during Remote Teaching.


Here is the book that Toni Morrison's essay: "Grendel and his Mother" comes from.

Class Recordings (for registered members)




High Noon - Movie and Related Questions.   The students will now put everything we've done since the beginning of the year - and synthesise it with a film that echoes the story of Beowulf - and is one of the great American movies of all time; "High Noon".


  Grendel Day 8 - A Final Discussion

Thoughts on the Lesson 

It is great to see the students writing an essay on the novel we've just written - and to start thinking about that idea of why we are reading it in the first place.  Toni Morrison is one of the great American writers ever.