Beowulf by All

Beowulf by All began as an idea to bring together a large group of contributors to create a polyvocal translation of the eleventh-century poem, Beowulf. The uniquely surviving work, composed in Old English, is contained in the London, British Library, Cotton Vitellius A. xv manuscript (meaning it once sat, in the Cotton Library, prior to the founding of the British Museum in 1753, in the 15th place on the A-shelf in the cabinet topped by a bust of the Roman emperor Vitellius!), and it is still one of the most widely studied literary works in English. It tells the story of the pseudo-historical and mythical Beowulf, as he lives his life fighting the monstrous Others of Daneland and Geatland, in which battles the lines between “human” and “monster,” “man” and “animal,” “nation-state” and “wilderness,” “friend” and “enemy,” “relative” and “foreigner” (etc.) become hopelessly entangled. Beowulf fights and defeats Grendel and Grendel’s mother, terroristic stalkers of King Hrothgar and the Danes, before being killed, as an aged king, in battle with a fire-breathing dragon guarding an ancient hoard in Beowulf’s native Geatland. His actions mark him out as a dragon-slayer, but also as the supposedly most kind and most merciful of men (according to his own mourners) — simultaneously warrior and protector (but perhaps, also, a monster himself). Alongside Beowulf’s story, multiple other shorter narratives and voices are woven throughout the poem, making it a rich and varied account of the poet’s and his community’s (often conflicted) views of heroism, hospitality, conflict, violence, war, loyalty, and what it means to be caught in the (often violent) flows of historical time.

This multi-authored translation was designed to bring together as many volunteers as possible to create a new version of Beowulf. Over two hundred participants have worked to bring this project to fruition in order, particularly, to combat the often ossified hierarchies and disciplinary elitism present in Early English Studies. Contributors include librarians, undergraduates, retirees, university & independent researchers, administrators, graduate students, early career researchers, and medieval enthusiasts. While the instructions contributors were given were minimal — the chief one being to stay fairly close to the original Old English in meaning — the results are incredibly diverse. This makes for a new community version of the poem that is vigorous, varied, and worth lingering over. It’s already being used in university classrooms to make the point that translation is a labor of love, and always an interpretation.

The editors are tremendously grateful to all the creators of Beowulf By All. Long live collaboration!


Jean Abbott, Paul Acker, Lindsey Allen, Tarren Andrews and the Flathead Indian Reservation, Max William Ashton, David T.H. Baker, Courtney Catherine Barajas, Tiffany Beechy, R. Scott Bevill, Tom Birkett, Virginia Blanton, William E. Bolton, Berber Bossenbroek, Matthew Boutilier, Lindy Brady, Thomas A Bredehoft, Rolf H. Bremmer Jr., Anne Breyer, Justin Briley, Francesca Brooks, Brantley L. Bryant, Emily Butler, Peter Buchanan, Donald Burke, Deirdre Carney, Leslie Carpenter, Richard Carter Fahey, Megan Cavell, E.J. Christie, Anthony G. Cirilla, David Clark, Lauren Claus, Abraham Cleaver, Oshay Columbus, Patrick W. Conner, Patricia O Connor, Aidan Conti, Jeremy Cooley, Erika Corradini, Jessie Cortez, Sam Cox, Tristan Cox, Laura Creedon, Alexander D’Alisera, Glenn M. Davis, Jonathan Davis-Secord, Siân Echard, Andrew T. Eichel, James Eric Ensley, Olivia Ernst, Heide Estes, James Estes, Joshua R. Eyler, Kevin Fabery, Mateusz Fafinski, George Ferzoco, Jill M. Fitzgerald, Kimberlee Flack, Damian Fleming, Rachel Fletcher, Chainy J. Folsom, Anna Fore Waymack, Hilary E. Fox, Martin Foys, Jill Frederick, Angela B. Fulk, Bruce Gilchrist, Shannon Godlove, Jack Goldfisher, Miguel Gomes, Micah James Goodrich, Katrina Graham, Steven T. Gray, Nicole Guenther Discenza, Stephen Guy-Bray, David Hadbawnik, Alaric Hall, Jill Hamilton Clements, Brian Christopher Hardison, Brandon W. Hawk, Nathan John Haydon, Sarah Hayes-Hickey, Daniel Hellstrom, Lauren Herring, Alice Hicklin, Sarah L. Higley, Jacob Hobson, Natalie Hodges, Emrys Holmes, Shari Horner, Aaron K. Hostetter, Jonathan Hui, Mary Kate Hurley, Matthew T. Hussey, Sarah Beah Jacobson, Janea James, Lesley E. Jacobs, Christopher Jensen, Michael Joseph, David Johnson, Chris Jones, Emma Kantor, Niamh Kehoe, Anna Kelner, Kayla Kemhadjian, Jasmine Kilburn-Small, Alison Elizabeth Killilea, Susan M. Kim, Yvette Kisor, David Klausner, Andrew W. Klein, Stacy S. Klein, Gwendolyne Knight, Lilla Kopár, M. Breann Leake, Madeleine LeBrun, Brittany Ledford, Barbara Lee Bolt, Mary Leech, Francis Leneghan, Ashley Lesley, John D. Lewis, Joan Li, R.M. Liuzza, Elise Louviot, Shu-han Luo, Jaylon Mallory, Arianna Marealle, Heather Maring, Melissa Mayus, Frances McCormack, Patrick McCoy, Murray McGillivray, Joey McMullen, Rebecca Merkelbach, Nancy M. Michael, Asa Simon Mittman, Britt Mize, Steven Modugno, Neville Mogford, Carrie Moll, Christopher Monk, Sarah Moore, Jennifer Neville, Beth Newman Ooi, Josephine Nolan, Brian O’Camb, Robin Norris, Stephanie Opfer, Emily Ott, Dana M. Oswald, Dylan Perese, Jasmine Phillips, Leah Pope Parker, Thijs Porck, Branden Printup, Jonathan Quick, M.R. Rambaran-Olm, Elizabeth L. Rambo, Alexandra Reider, Melissa Ridley Elmes, J.H. Roberts, Damián Robles, Matt Roots, Jerrod Rosenbaum, Lauren Rosenblatt, Andre Ross, Spenser Santos, Michael Savarese, Helene Scheck, Robert Schichler, Sara Schliep, Janet Schrunk Ericksen, Ilse Schweitzer VanDonkelaar, Maggie Scott, Donald Scragg, Erin Sebo, John P. Sexton, Joseph Shack, Erin M. Shaull, Rebecca Shores, Jessica Silvis, Amy Smith, Joshua Byron Smith, Robin Smith, Robert Stanton, Rebecca Straple, Robert Jesse Stratton, Ilya V. Sverdlov, Erik Tamre, Carla María Thomas, Sarah Thompson, Manon Thuillier, Katayoun Torabi, Bethan Tovey, Larissa Tracy, Elaine Treharne, Janine van Drünen, Martha Valenzuela, Laura Varnam, Chris Vinsonhaler, Phong Vo, Christine Voth, Kelsey Waddy, Brea Walker, Eric Weiskott, Lisa Weston, Elizabeth A. Williamsen, Natalie Whitaker, Alex Woolf, Jordan Zweck.

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