by J J Cohen
So I taught Beowulf again, this time in an introductory level course with ninety students.
As I prepped for the class I tried to ascertain how many times I've read the thing, and came up with a number of approximately thirty -- not bad for someone who is not an Anglo-Saxonist. Two of those reads were early in my scholarly life, when as an undergraduate and again as a graduate student I took a semester-long course in which we translated the poem in its entirety. Beowulf has been on my syllabus since I started leading my own classes in 1992 ... though it didn't become as teachable as I find it now until Seamus Heaney's translation/reinvention appeared.
Thirty times through, and yet the poem offers novelty at every reading, opens new worlds at every discussion. So I wonder: what other texts do readers of ITM find never grow stale? What is your favroite work that, no matter how frequently you read or teach the thing, at each encounter something living, breathing and surprising emerges?