An Introduction to the Old English Epic of Beowulf
with Dr Sam Newton (Independent Scholar)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 29th November, 2014.


This Study Day reintroduces the Old English epic of Beowulf, the poetic masterpiece that forms the precedent for literary art in the English language, in the light of this year’s publication of Professor Tolkien’s translation (and commentary) and the new collection of essays on the dating of the poem from the recent Harvard University conference. We shall also consider the relation of the verse to Old English music using a replica of the royal lyre from the Sutton Hoo ship-burial.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:                An Introduction to Beowulf – the unique manuscript; the epic status of the poem; the question of the dating, origin, and transmission of its text; the opening movement.

11.15 – 11.45:                Coffee break

11.45 – 12.45:                The Camelot of the Old English Heroic Age – the building of the great meadhall of King Hrothgar; the coming of Grendel; the coming of the hero.

12.45 – 14.00:                Lunch break

14.00 – 15.00:                 Grendel’s Last Night Out – Beowulf’s wrestling exorcism of Grendel; the victory-feast in the great hall; the vengeance of Grendel’s mother; the final defeat of the Grendel’s.

15.00 – 15.20:               Tea break

15.20 – 16.15:                The First Dragon of English Literature – the history of the dragon’s treasure and the coming of the dragon; the old hero’s last battle; the people’s farewell.

c.16.15:                            Thanks and Close

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Alexander, M., The First Poems in English (Penguin Classics 2008)

Bjork, R., & J.Niles (eds), A Beowulf Handbook (Nebraska University 1997)

Fulk, R., R.Bjork, & J.Niles (eds), Klaeber’s Beowulf, 4th Edition (Toronto 2008)

Garmonsway, G., & J.Simpson (ed. & tr.), Beowulf and Its Analogues (Dent Everyman 1968, 1980)

Heaney, Seamus (tr.) Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition, ed. J.Niles (Norton 2007)

Lee, S.D., & E.Solopova, The Keys of Middle-earth: Discovering Medieval Literature through the Fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien (Palgrave Macmillan 2005)

Newton, S., The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia (Brewer 1993)

Newton, S., The Reckoning of King Rædwald (Redbird 2003)

Niedorf, L. (ed.), The Dating of Beowulf – A Reassessment, Anglo-Saxon Studies 24 (Brewer 2014)

Orchard, A., A Critical Companion to Beowulf (Brewer 2003)

Shippey, T.A., The Road to Middle-earth (Allen and Unwin, 1982; rev. edn HarperCollins, 2003)

Tolkien, J.R.R., The Lost Road and Other Writings, ed. C.Tolkien (Unwin Hyman 1987)

Tolkien, J.R.R., Beowulf – A Translation and Commentary, ed. C.Tolkien (Harper Collins 2014)

Webster, L., & J.Backhouse, The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon Art and Culture AD 600-900 (British Museum 1991)

About Dr Sam Newton

Sam Newton was awarded his Ph.D in 1991 and is the author of The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia (1993) and The Reckoning of King Rædwald (2003). He has lectured widely around the country as an independent scholar and has contributed to many radio and television programmes, especially Time Team.. He is a Director of Wuffing Education, NADFAS lecturer, and tutor for Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education.