Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Review by: Luna Ferraraccio
This radio talk focuses on the work of Beowulf, one of the oldest piece of English Literature, as main subject. A brief summary of the story is given at the very beginning, followed by some historical information about the work itself. A group of experts in Old English, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Literature from various schools and universities have been reunited for the purpose of the talk show.
The first point of discussion revolves around the ”when and where” the story of Beowulf takes place and also when the poem might have been written. We learn that the story is set around the sixth century, in Denmark, but more surprisingly, it appears that, if Beowulf himself was a fictional character, some other figures of the tale were real people living during that era. The second point of focus is the outline of the story itself, from the ”plot point of view”. An extract of the poem is read in Old English and then translated in Modern English. The third subject of discussion is the different themes that are present in Beowulf such as “memory, glory and futility”. The character of Beowulf is then described in depth as well as the reasons why he could be seen as a peculiar hero for his time, followed by the different symbolic of Beowulf’s three adversaries. The language of the poem and the rhetorical tools used in the text themselves are then analysed and explained by the experts. The genre of the poem is a matter of debate afterward, and finally, to conclude the talk show, a link between Beowulf and Tolkien’s work is mentioned.
This talk show might be of interest to the students for multiple reasons: the persons debating around the epic poem are real expert of the subject, not only do they give their opinion on Beowulf, they also explain their arguments and the thinking process they followed in order to built these arguments. The experts give to the listeners the tools to understand one of the oldest piece of English literature rather than simply state some general information or facts about that “cultural artefact”. The work of the professors present for the talk show could also be used as sources for further readings and research.