Richard Sacks

life-long explorations of great works of literature

Dusting off the Classics: Beowulf


University College Enrichment Program

University of Denver, Denver CO

Five Thursday evening sessions:

March 21, 28, April 4, 11, 18, 6:30-8:30pm

 Room 287, Sturm Hall, DU campus 

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(with link to Winter/Spring 2019 Catalogue)

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"Beowulf is Back!" The Atlantic boldly announced in its April 2017 issue. This Old English epic poem from the first millennium has mostly been relegated to the back benches of English literature since its rediscovery some 300 years ago. So why does it speak to us so powerfully today? Join Professor Richard Sacks, who spent four decades at Columbia University teaching ancient texts such as the Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, Beowulf and Genesis, in a close and careful reading of the dark landscapes of this astonishing poem which follows the 50-plus-year career of the Geatish hero Beowulf as he strives to do what is right despite the monstrous forces of the world in which he lives. There are the (in)famous literal monsters that Beowulf is able to destroy—Grendel, Grendel's mother, and a dragon guarding the ancient treasures of our earth. But where is the line between human and monster in such struggles? There are the monsters of history and politics Beowulf faces—ancient tribal hatreds and resentments among Swedes, Danes, Beowulf's Geats and others. But can such tribal monsters of our world ever be tamed? And lurking just below the surface of the poem, there are also the monsters related to, yet at odds with, the gods—the serpent that destroys Thor and the wolf that destroys Woden. But can we prevent such self-destructive and world-ending battles from reenacting themselves in our souls and societies? These are the kinds of ancient yet contemporary questions with which Beowulf will confront us as we work our way through this remarkable poem.