Among the “school texts” of note is the convenient student edition produced by George Jack in Jack 1997.Aiming to make the language of the poem accessible, Jack provides a running gloss alongside the Old English lines.Grímur Jonsson Thorkelin, who was researching early Danish history, made two transcripts of the poem, which he used in his 1815 edition.
Dobbie 1965 fulfills in part its series mandate to produce a complete record for Old English. Wrenn produced his edition (subsequently revised by W. Bolton in 1973; see Wrenn 1982), students of the 1950s and 1960s greeted it as “more literary than Klaeber.” This reaction indicates that Wrenn had attained his objective announced in his preface to interest literary students in the kind of accurate study that may lead to aesthetic pleasure and understanding.
Unlike so many editions announcing their aim to assist students of all sorts, Dobbie evidently prefers to focus on the text. Michael Alexander executed “a double Penguin” when he issued a glossed edition of the poem (Alexander 1995), which is a complement to his earlier verse translation (Alexander 2003, cited in Translations).
As the 19th century began, the subject started to leave its antiquarian beginnings and to create the Age of Philology, during which there was a primary emphasis on what a text said as opposed to what it meant. Tolkien’s essay, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” (Tolkien 1936, cited under Articles) is the traditional starting point for the literary criticism of Beowulf, but Tolkien had predecessors.
At midcentury scholars also assisted the building of nation-states by tracing in history a pure national spirit, presumably unadulterated. The early history of Beowulf, the written text, defies any easy account.
Almost always difficult to date and rarely attributable to a named author, this body of vernacular writing is the largest extant in the first 1,100 years of the Common Era.
Although there is evidence that some post-Conquest figures worked with Old English literary remains, the awakening to Old English literary forms took place in the 16th century when, in the context of religious disputes, partisans sought to find the roots of their beliefs. Prose records, which were more numerous in laws, chronicles, sermons, and homilies, were more accessible and more pertinent than poetry.Chickering 1977 moves even closer into the classroom with a well-known dual-language edition of Beowulf.The apparatus is minimal, but the occasion to introduce the sound of Old English is ever present.Originally photographed in 1877 and then reissued in a second edition in 1959, Davis 1967 is still arguably the most convenient visual record of the poem, given its portability.Malone 1963 contains a substantial textual introduction, essentially superseding previous discussions while offering high-quality photographic reproduction.Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney won the Whitbread Prize for his translation of Beowulf, making the poem a surprise best seller in 1999.