Epic of Beowulf Essay - Foreign and English Translations and Versions of Beowulf

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Foreign and English Translations and Versions of Beowulf

From 1805 until the present there have been introduced an abundance of paraphrases, translations, adaptations, summaries, versions and illustrations of Beowulf in modern English and in foreign languages due mostly to two reasons: the desire to make the poem accessible, and the desire to read the exotic (Osborn 341). It is the purpose of this essay to present a brief history of this development of the popularity of the poem and then compare some of the translations with respect to some more difficult passages in the poem Beowulf.

In 1805 Sharon Turner included some passages from Beowulf in his The History of the Anglo-Saxons; he increased the text in later editions. In 1815 Grimur Johsson Thorkelin published the complete, though inaccurate, translation of the poem Beowulf. Thorkelin thought that the poem was a translation made in the court of King Alfred. These two citations show how Beowulf got its start towards fame in the modern era.

In more recent years more contemporary Beowulf enthusiasts are publishing a version in Hungarian (by Gyorgy in1994); doing photographic representations of the poem (Swearer, etc. in 1990, etc.); doing a meditative translation (Hudson in 1990); doing an Augustinian translation (Huppe in 1994); a translation based on syllabic meter (Greenfield in 1982); writing a novel, Eaters of the Dead, based on th epoem (Crichton in 1978); retelling the poem as a rock musical (Wylie in 1974); and the list is endless. Each approach strives to reinterpret Beowulf in the local and contemporary idiom (Osborn 341).

Regarding the translation of Beowulf into English and foreign languages, both verse and prose, in 1815 a Latin...

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...hor Books, 1977.

Crossley-Holland, Kevin, trans. Beowulf The Fight at Finnsburh, edited by Heather O’Donoghue. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Donaldson, E. Talbot, trans. Beowulf The Donaldson Translation, edited by Joseph Tuso. New York, W.W.Norton and Co., 1975.

Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf, A New Verse Translation. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2000.

Osborn, Marijane. “Translations, Versions, Illustrations.” In A Beowulf Handbook, edited by Robert Bjork and John D. Niles. Lincoln, Nebraska: Uiversity of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Rebsamen, Frederick. Beowulf A Verse Translation. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 1991.

Shippey, T.A.. “The World of the Poem.” In Beowulf – Modern Critical Interpretations, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987..

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