Beowulf, a bone-chilling tale of monsters and men, will roar to
life in an award-winning performance with harp by Chris Vinsonhaler
on Oct. 30 at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Hartwig
The performance is sponsored by the university’s
Honors College, English Department and Department of Theatre and
Timely, authoritative and mesmerizing—this
90-minute performance with Celtic harp, scheduled to begin at 2:30
p.m., is free and open to the public, and it is recommended for
adults and young adults only. Doors will open at 2 p.m.
Awarded a fellowship funded by the National
Endowment for the Arts, Vinsonhaler, an internationally touring
artist, has received praise from scholars, poets, teachers, storytellers
and armchair readers.
“You made Beowulf come alive even for
those who hated reading it,” said Rosemary DePaulo, former
president of Georgia College & State University, to Vinsonhaler
after one of her performances. “You made everyone in the audience
feel that Beowulf, Grendel and Hrothgar were with us—in the
room and in our time.”
“Beowulf does indeed have something for
everyone,” said Vinsonhaler. “It is a dazzling work
of poetry, and it is also a knock-'em, sock-'em piece of pop culture
about a Dark Ages super hero. It is somber and thought-provoking,
but it is also a lot of fun. That’s what great literature
has always been about.”
Yet those who are familiar with Beowulf should
expect to be surprised.
"Beowulf has many surprises in store,"
Vinsonhaler said. "The poem is ironic, subversive, grotesque
and darkly comic, and it may even lay claim to be the world's first
murder mystery. Yet, above all, Beowulf is a prophetic work about
the death of nations. Its world, like our own, is overshadowed by
the image of a burning tower and by monstrous acts of avarice, envy,
deceit and revenge. It is very much a poem for our times."
Robert Bjork, president of the International
Society for Anglo-Saxonists, has praised Vinsonhaler's work for
"capturing the tone and energy of the original poem.”
And Andy Orchard, director of the Toronto Centre for Medieval Studies
has praised Vinsonhaler’s translation as superior to all others
in capturing “the passion and verve of the original.”
Vinsonhaler began working on Beowulf out of
her lifelong interest in folk culture and bardic tradition. Now
eight years into the project, Vinsonhaler has published an original
performance-based translation. “I was aware that even serious
readers of Beowulf have differed widely on interpretation—some
declaring the poem can never be fully understood.
“As a professional storyteller, I wondered
what would happen if Beowulf were seriously examined and interpreted
through performance,” Vinsonhaler said.
“Although many questions remain unanswered,
one thing that is almost certainly true: Beowulf was meant to be
heard, not read. What excites me most, and what I hope to share
with others, is that the poem does indeed take on a life of its
own when returned to spoken form.”
Information on Vinsonhaler and the Beowulf
project is available at www.beowulfpoet.com/welcome.html.