“Old English is Mine!”: Diversity and Old English

A postdoctoral research fellow at Penn, Nahir studies medieval literature and culture.

A postdoctoral research fellow at Penn, Nahir, who has her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, studies medieval literature and culture.

Old English belongs to us all, no matter what our background or where we come from. This proclamation rings out in a beautiful poem I’m delighted to share with you by Nahir I. Otaño Gracia, currently Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Comparative Literature and Classics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Why poetry?

“I write poetry to express both the pleasure and frustration that comes from being a medievalist. ‘Old English Is Mine’ is a response to the many ways that medieval English literature and culture are used to undermine diversity. For example, the idea that we can have dragons, orks, and elves in games and stories set in the Middle Ages, but we can’t have people of color because they were not present at that time. One of the most pervasive lies!”

So true! Please read Nahir’s poem and share it with students, colleagues, and lovers of written and spoken word everywhere.

Photos in the fog and mist at her husband's house in Puerto Rico. "Every time I visit, I wake up to the mist and I think it's magical."

Photos in the fog and mist at her husband’s house in Puerto Rico. “Every time I visit, I wake up to the mist and I think it’s magical.”

Old English is mine!

It belongs to me.

And when it’s mine it’s literary,

Because my blood pumps poetry,

Because I cry with the Wife.

And I, like an emigrant,

Am like the Wanderer,

Mourn the loss of the Hall.

I mourn the crumbling walls of my Island.

Old English is mine!

I own it, I call it mine,

because I have as much right to it.

Nahir's photo of La Playuela in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Her father is walking ahead of her and you can see him in the distance.

Nahir’s photo of La Playuela in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Her father is walking ahead of her and you can see him in the distance.

No matter I’m Puerto Rican,

No matter I speak Spanglish,

No importa que yo entiendo el anglosajón

A través de ojos hispanos y caribeños.

¡Si es tuyo, es mío!

Old English is mine!

It’s multiracial, it’s multiethnic.

And from its first words

Yo, he entendido el grito callado de sus palabras.

And I weep the words y siento la passion

Y entiendo el contexto.

Old English is mine!

Because only a good Old English poem

Could understand la Brega

as good as a Puerto Rican.

Porque yo cargo cada palabra

Como un sueño.

Old English is mine,

And you can’t have it.

And I will hold it in my fist,

And I will say to every person

that Old English is not White,

that the middle earth is not White,

that Europe is not White,

that medievalism is not White.

They were lied to

As surely as they always lie to me.

Old English is mine.

And I have taken it.

¡Y, que se joda lo demás!

Photos in the fog and mist at her husband's house in Puerto Rico. "Every time I visit, I wake up to the mist and I think it's magical."

Another magical photo in the fog and mist at the house of her husband in Puerto Rico. “Every time I visit, I wake up to the mist and I think it’s magical.”

Thank you for letting me share this poem, Nahir!

“Beowulf” Rock Operas, Appalachian Old-Time Music, Tolkien, and Philology

Brother Wolf, Triad Stage, Greensboro, North Carolina (2007). Photo: VanderVeen Photographers

Brother Wolf, Triad Stage, Greensboro, North Carolina (2007). Photo: VanderVeen Photographers

I was recently at Texas A&M University for the Texas Medieval Association conference. A pre-conference symposium and a number of sessions focused on Beowulf, with special attention to adaptations. I learned about Beowulf Rock Operas and even an Appalachian “old time” musical, Brother Wolf. All fascinating.

One of the special treats was a presentation at Cushing Library with its magnificent special collections. An undergraduate, poised and articulate, gave a riveting presentation about her work in the archives. Maddie Keyser has worked on Tolkien and items from their archives belonging to him. She is writing her thesis on her amazing discoveries. You can read about her preliminary research on this blogpost she wrote for the preeminent Tolkien collector in Antwerp. Enjoy–and keep alert for Maddie’s further publications!

 

An Anglo-Saxon Anecdote: Dreaming of witch-wives, fiery pitchforks and the Battle of Fulford — Dutch Anglo-Saxonist

The Battle of Fulford (20 September, 1066): prophetic dreams of fork-bearing witch-wives, Vikings hurling pitch-forks at Scarborough and bridges made of people. Snorri Sturluson reports…

via An Anglo-Saxon Anecdote: Dreaming of witch-wives, fiery pitchforks and the Battle of Fulford — Dutch Anglo-Saxonist

How J.R.R. Tolkien Found Mordor on the Western Front

Rebecca Bird's stirring image accompanies the article.

Rebecca Bird’s stirring image accompanies the article.

A recent article in The New York Times commemorating the Battle of the Somme during the Great War, World War I, argues how J. R. R. Tolkien’s terrifying experiences in the trenches influenced his mythscape of Hobbiton, Mordor, and Middle Earth.

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918

The author of “How J.R.R. Tolkien Found Mordor on the Western Front” is Joseph Loconte, an associate professor of history at the King’s College in New York, who writes, “The first day of the battle, July 1, [1916], produced a frenzy of bloodletting. Unaware that its artillery had failed to obliterate the German dugouts, the British Army rushed to slaughter.

Before nightfall, 19,240 British soldiers — Prime Minister David Lloyd George called them “the choicest and best of our young manhood” — lay dead. That day, 100 years ago, remains the most lethal in Britain’s military history.

Though the debt is largely overlooked, Tolkien’s supreme literary achievement, “The Lord of the Rings,” owes a great deal to his experience at the Somme.”

Laconte has published A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918.

My Amazing Students, Part 2: Beowulf in 3 (Hilarious) Minutes

My amazingly creative student, Marilisa, created a movie for her final project in my Beowulf’s Literary Hoard class. She managed to persuade three of her younger brothers to perform in a film version of Beowulf.

Although it takes only three minutes to sum up the epic, she told us in class how it actually took an entire day to film the whole project. Her paper with the screenplay you can find below. You are guaranteed to laugh a lot!  Get your popcorn….

Here is her paper; at the end is the screenplay of her sure-to-be Academy Award winning film.beowulf FINAL PAPER

Thank you for sharing, Marilisa!! Your brothers–and you–are amazing!

#grendelsmotherthenovel

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Grendel’s Mother Wins Words on Wings Book Award, a Literary Classics Top Honors Award

Grendel_s_Mother_WOW_Award

Delighted to hear that “Grendel’s Mother” won the Words on Wings Book Award for young adult fiction, a Literary Classics Top Honors Award!

“Do not give your books to children!” and other medieval tips for taking care of books — Dutch Anglo-Saxonist

This blog post calls attention to a late medieval text which provides some practical advice to preserve books so that they may ‘last forever’ -some of these rules remain topical today!

via “Do not give your books to children!” and other medieval tips for taking care of books — Dutch Anglo-Saxonist

Literary Classics Finalist and Seal of Approval for “Grendel’s Mother”

Grendel's Mother is a finalist!

Grendel’s Mother is a finalist!

I’m delighted to report that Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife has been selected as a finalist for a Literary Classics award.

My novel has also been awarded the Seal of Approval from Literary Classics.

Given the Seal of Approval from Literary Classics

Given the Seal of Approval from Literary Classics. Here is their review.

They write, “Skillfully penned in a style which flows remarkably well, while masterfully incorporating an old world flair, this book transports readers to medieval Denmark and the fascinating world of Grendel….This book reads well as a stand-alone, but would be an excellent companion piece as a prequel for those seeking greater depth, or an alternate view, of Beowulf.  Grendel’s Mother is highly recommended for home and school libraries and as a teaching tool for educators.  This book has earned the Literary Classics Seal of Approval.

 

I’m delighted by this review! And the Seal of Approval.

I’ve always liked seals….

Seals looking for a copy of Grendel's Mother

Seals looking for a copy of Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife