Category Archives: Beowulf Poet

Beowulf, an Early Olympic Swimmer

Beowulf engages in a swimming contest of Olympian dimensions.

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How Beowulf Can Save America, the Book

The process of writing a book applying “Beowulf” to contemporary American politics has brought me insight and hope.

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Will Obama Be Beowulf and Defy the NRA?

Cowering before the NRA just prompts them to become even more extreme. Obama needs to be a Beowulf.

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Satan Strikes Again, This Time in Aurora

The shootings in Aurora, Colorado call forth literary works about evil stalking the world, including “Beowulf” and “Paradise Lost.”

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Destructive Grieving for a Lost America

Grieving for a lost America reaches deep across the political spectrum, “Beowulf” provides a healthy response.

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A Creeping Sense of Entitlement

King Hrothgar in “Beowulf” describes the creeping sense of entitlement that can possess a society’s wealthiest citizens.

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Could Beowulf Have Saved Jews?

In her book about Eichmann, Hannah Arendt praises the Danes for how they stood up to the Nazis. One can draw a parallel with how Beowulf stands up to Grendel and also apply the lesson to the Trayvon Martin case.

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Has Obama Been a Naïve Wealtheow?

Pundits debates whether Obama has been naive in his dealings with opponents. The same question can be asked of Queen Wealtheow in “Beowulf.”

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How Beowulf Can Save America

In our angry politics, we have versions of the monsters in “Beowulf.” The Geat warrior instructs tell us what we can do to effectively deal with the anger.

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The Black Dragon Scales of Grief

Nobel laureate Thomas Tranströmer’s poem “After a Death” accurately captures how it feels to lose someone you love.

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Après Peyton, le Déluge

News that Peyton Manning may be out for part or all of the upcoming football season puts me in mind of the future of the Geats after Beowulf’s death.

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Obama Passes the Beowulf Test

When subjected to the Beowulf test on good leadership, Obama scores surprisingly well.

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Grendel Unleashed in Congress

Republican brinksmanship in the halls of Congress these past few weeks has been reminding me of Grendel rampaging through Heorot Hall in “Beowulf.”

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Grendel as a Norwegian Christian Fascist

Apparently Anders Breivik was very well read and he mentions George Orwell, Franz Kafka, and Ayn Rand. What I find striking about them on the list is that they all articulate high levels of paranoia.

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Top Gun Takes Down Grendel’s Mom

An unexpected parallel between “Beowulf” and the Tom Cruse film “Top Gun” has given me new appreciation for the 8th century Anglo-Saxon epic and a deeper insight into how at least some guys in the military handle grief.

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Obama, Unconventional Epic Hero

Maybe Obama is like Beowulf, who watches out Grendel operates and allows the monster to strike first before responding. Then he reaches out with a firm grip. Bombast and theatrics are for others. His aim is to save the hall.

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Judge Doty in the Role of Deus ex Machina

Sports Saturday Negotiations between the National Football League owners and the Players Association were at an impasse. The owners locking out the players seemed all but inevitable, along with suspension of the 2011 season.  Then the goddess Athena stepped in.  Taking the form of U.S. District Judge David Doty, she ordered the two sides to […]

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Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” Franklin Roosevelt memorably told a nation in the midst of its greatest economic crisis. As I look at America today, I see a lot of our politics dictated by fear. It is as though the unscrupulous and the irresponsible are stampeding us into extreme positions. Some want […]

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Lost Paradise Syndrome in Tucson

Spiritual Sunday As I teach Beowulf for the umpteenth time, I am struck once again by its beautiful rendition of the Genesis creation story. I’m also struck by how the invocation of that beauty calls forth human horror. Exploring the linkage provides some insight into the mass killings we have almost come to expect. The […]

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How to Write a “True” Essay about Lit

When I wasn’t teaching class yesterday, I was continuing my marathon essay-grading session. I took a break to write today’s post, however, and used a well-known poem by Langston Hughes to reflect on what I was asking my students to do. In “Theme for English B,” the only black student in a college composition course […]

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Revenge, Understandable but Unhealthy

I’ve been talking a lot about rightwing anger this past year.Today I write about my own.It is an anger I try to keep hidden but that nevertheless washes over me from time to time, usually when I hear about some act of gross injustice where the perpetrator seems to escape scot-free. At such moments I […]

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Using Beowulf to Defend Lebron

Sports Saturday Lebron James has been taking a lot of heat recently for joining the Miami basketball team. (Did you catch the pun?) This past trading season was termed “the Lebron Sweepstakes,” and teams from around the country trekked to Cleveland to play court to “King James.” James made the occasion particularly gaudy by persuading […]

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Befriending, Not Fighting, Grendel’s Mother

I am still vibrating from the powerful student essays I received last week. I talked about one yesterday and will share another today. This is one from a student whose mother is dying of brain cancer. Erica Rutkai (she is letting me use her name) decided to move from California to the east coast when […]

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Beowulf into the Sports Blogosphere

The Super Bowl has come and gone and, although my team lost, I appreciate the fact that the American city most in need of a boost received one. Before the football season entirely fades from memory, I want to share the story of my incursion into the sports blogosphere and how I carried the torch […]

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Poetry Battling Despair

Odin’s Valhalla, Dwelling Place of the Einherrar, artist unknown  While the major focus of this blog and website is looking to literature to see if it can provide solutions to life’s problems, at times I wonder if I am just engaging in wishful thinking. What if there are no solutions and literature is just whistling […]

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A Queenly Response to Violence

My wife (who is currently out of town) has just responded to my last post with a story that expands my conversation about the Beowulf approach to societal rage. In the story related in Julia’s post, a woman takes a principled and courageous stand in an ugly situation and finds herself, against all expectation, making […]

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Taking on Grendel Rage

If Grendel rage is on the rampage in America, do we have a Beowulf who can defeat it?  And what would defeating it look like? In a recent New York Times piece, liberal columnist Frank Rich talks about how irresponsible talk from political commentators and politicians essentially enable those committing hate crimes, even though these […]

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A Modern Grendel on the Rampage

We have a Grendel problem in today’s United States. The troll that invades our special halls has many different names—Scott Roeder, who killed Dr. George Tiller; James W. von Brunn, the Holocaust Museum attacker; Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad, who killed an army recruitment officer; gun lover Richard Poplawski, who shot three Philadelphia police officers; Jim David Adkisson, […]

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Willow Rosenberg as Grendel’s Mother

This past year I was surprised to suddenly find myself a fan of the 1997-2003 television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It would be hard to find a television show with a wackier premise, but it somehow works. In this entry I want to draw some parallels between the show and Beowulf and, especially, between […]

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Battling with Monstrous Grief

I said in the last blog that I am kept fresh by the variety of ways that my students respond to the works that I teach. Sometimes their reactions are entirely unexpected and altogether marvelous. To make this point dramatically, I share here a Beowulf reading story. The student was a 19-year-old African American woman […]

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High Impact Literature

I will tell you something about stories, [he said] They aren’t just for entertainment. Don’t be fooled. They are all we have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death. You don’t have anything if you don’t have the stories. Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony Like Leslie Marmon Silko, I believe that stories are […]

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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