Why I love my students…Pop (Quiz) Art

“Pop quiz!”

I’ve taken to giving pop quizzes with easy answers…if you’ve read the material. When I told my students they’d have one everyday as we went through Beowulf, they said, “Then it’s not a POP quiz.” So I starting calling them “Pop-Tart quizzes.” In any event, I always say, if you don’t know the answer, make me laugh–or draw a picture. My students never fail me!

Why I love my students….let me count the ways…

Concerning Tolkien’s “The Monsters and the Critics”

What is or are NOT “an inexplicable blunder of taste”?

  • Literature critics
  • It is an inexplicable blunder of taste to neglect the study of Beowulf in scholarly settings.
  • My memory of what the answer to this question is
  • Dr. Morrison’s hair

Well…that’s debatable….

Purple hair!

What does Leyerle argue about interlace in Beowulf?

  • No idea, so I drew Beowulf in a corset because inter[lace]. 🙂

A lovely corset!

  • Another student wrote “I like your outfit today by the way :-)”

At least she was paying attention!

What does Leyerle say about digressions in Beowulf?

  • That one’s mind should not digress from remembering what Leyerle says about digressions.

Concerning Jane Chance’s article “The Structural Unity of Beowulf: The Problem of Grendel’s Mother”

Why, according to Change, is Grendel’s Mother ‘monstrous’?

  • Because she’s a strong independent woman who don’t need no man?

What overtones color her battle with Beowulf?

  • Sexual!

  • Sexual (bow chicka bow-wow)

Extra Credit: what is Euhemerism?

  • I have no idea, but Robinson really likes to talk about it.
  • I do not recall, but again, today’s outfit is REALLY cute.

According to Roberta Frank, what is the ultimate point of Beowulf?

  • To claim an ultimate point is to reduce the text into nothingness. Maybe I’m just trying to cover up my ignorance.

You know nothing, John Snow! Except how to weave a tapestry??

The heart-breaking moment Ygritte fires arrows at a fleeing Jon Snow

The Bayeux Tapestry beautifully depicts a Norman view of the political events culminating in the decisive loss of Britain for the Anglo-Saxons in 1066. Now, for those Games of Thrones fans out there (I am too! Team John Snow!), here is an amazing tapestry for you to enjoy.

Here is how they made it.

E. H. Shepard once drew this amazing scene for an exclusive book bag

This style tapestry also inspired A.A. Milne of Winnie-the-Pooh fame.

I’m a Tigger girl myself…..

Buy your mugworts here!

Can’t wait to use it!

Jessica Berry astounded us in the “Beowulf‘s Literary Hoard” class by her translation and presentation of the Nine Herbs Charm. Not only did she accomplish a lovely rendering into English, but she presented every student (and me) a jar with a skin product made from all the elements.

Jessica certainly enchanted us with her work!


“Grendel’s Mother” Joins List of 100 Must-Read Medieval Historical Fiction Novels

My own copy, clearly well-thumbed by both me and my daughter.

So excited that Grendel’s Mother has been chosen among 100 Must-Read Medieval Historical Fiction Novels by Book Riot. I’m especially honored since my novel is listed with other books I’ve long loved by authors like the incomparable Sharon Kay Penman, Tracy Chevalier, Sharan Newman, Melvyn Bragg, and Ellis Peters. I’m a newcomer, along with the wonderful Paul Kingsnorth, whose innovative The Wake I teach.

I was especially pleased since my novel sits in the same company of one of my favorite books of all time: Katherine by Anya Seton. I still remember where I first read it: on the main island of Orkney in late October 1994. My husband and I were living in London at the time and took a week’s holiday to that wind-swept area. Our self-catering home was nestled by the standing stones called the Ring of Brodgar.

Ring of Brodgar

And I read for hours, chilled by the wind whistling around the panes, but warmed by the passionate intrigue of Richard II’s court and the tempestuous love affair between Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt.

I like to imagine Katherine meeting my heroine, Brimhild. They would have a lot to talk about, especially how erotic desire can lead to great power but also to disaster and tragedy.  Perhaps Seton’s book was, without my knowing it, influencing me as I wrote my own novel. They are set in radically different times and cultures, but one thing never changes: the power of women and the mystery of how they gain agency in a world designed to thwart their hopes and dreams.

Spoiling the Mystery: Grendel in Beowulf Movies

Get your popcorn!

Dutch Anglo-Saxonist

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” (H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature). The secret to any, successful scary monster story is to keep your monsters clouded in mystery; a secret that was known to the Beowulf poet, but sadly lost on modern movie makers.

Grendel goes to Heorot

Grendel is one of the three monsters that feature in the Old English poem Beowulf. We are introduced to Grendel as an “ellengæst” [bold spirit] (l. 86a) who has spent the last twelve years harassing the hall of the Danish king Hrothgar, devouring anyone who spent the night there. A Geatish hero, Beowulf, arrives to save the day. After a long battle, Beowulf rips off Grendel’s arm and the monster, mortally wounded, returns to his home in the swamp and dies.

A troll, a…

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Please Join me at Malvern Books, April 14th at 7 p.m.

Germanophiles! Malvern Books, who hosted the book launch of Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife, contacted me out of the blue to help launch another writer’s new memoir. I’m delighted to join Rebecca Schuman when she reads from Schadenfreude, A Love Story about the trials of her time in Germany. I lived in Germany in the 1980s and am starting work on a memoir about my time teaching in East Germany. On the 14th I will read from a few of my published works about legendary and historical German women–and maybe say a word or two about the Stasi file that purports to have all the information about me!