Wednesday, 7:30 pm EST September 16, 2020
Due to the overwhelming number of registrants for this event, we will also be livestreaming to the Center for Fiction’s Facebook page. If you are unable to view on Crowdcast, please go to facebook.com/thecenterforfiction.
Maria Dahvana Headley’s Beowulf: A New Translation, published August 25 by MCD Books, is a feminist reworking of one of the oldest surviving texts. The resulting story evolves our understanding of the traditional hero/monster binary, inviting us to reconsider epic poetry’s place in a more egalitarian world.
She is joined in conversation by Emily Wilson, translator of Homer’s The Odyssey, and Madeline Miller, author of Song of Achilles and Circe. Together, these three authors radically re-envision classic texts once saturated in toxic masculinity and sexism with fresh perspectives.
Our bookstore has a limited number of copies of Beowulf: A New Translation available with signed bookplates.
• A “Beowulf” for Our Moment (New Yorker)
Maria Dahvana Headley
Maria Dahvana Headley
Maria Dahvana Headley is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and editor. Her books include the novels The Mere Wife, Magonia, Aerie, and Queen of Kings, and the memoir The Year of Yes. With Kat Howard, she is the author of The End of the Sentence, and with Neil Gaiman, she is the coeditor of Unnatural Creatures. Her stories have been short-listed for the Shirley Jackson, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, and her work has been supported by the MacDowell Colony and by Arte Studio Ginestrelle, where the first draft of Beowulfwas written. She was raised with a wolf and a pack of sled dogs in the high desert of rural Idaho and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Photo courtesy of Beowulf Sheehan.
Madeline Miller grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. She has taught and tutored Latin, Greek, and Shakespeare to high school students for over fifteen years. She’s studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama.
The Song of Achilles, her first novel, was awarded the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction and was a New York Times bestseller. Miller was also shortlisted for the 2012 Stonewall Writer of the Year. Her second novel, Circe, was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller, and won the Indies Choice Best Adult Fiction of the Year Award and the Indies Choice Best Audiobook of the Year Award, as well as being shortlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction. Circe also won The Red Tentacle Award, an American Library Association Alex Award (adult books of special interest to teen readers), and the 2018 Elle Big Book Award. It is currently being adapted for a series with HBO Max. Miller’s novels have been translated into over twenty-five languages including Dutch, Mandarin, Japanese, Turkish, Arabic and Greek, and her essays have appeared in a number of publications including the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Telegraph, Lapham’s Quarterly and NPR.org. She currently lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Emily Wilson is the College for Women Class of 1963 Term Professor in the Humanities, professor of Classical Studies, and graduate chair of the Program in Comparative Literature & Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania. Wilson attended Oxford University (Balliol College B.A. and Corpus Christi College M.Phil.) and Yale University (Ph.D.). In 2006, she was named a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome in Renaissance & Early Modern scholarship. In 2019 she was named a MacArthur Fellow, and in 2020 she was named a Guggenheim Fellow. She lives in Philadelphia with her three daughters, three cats, and dog.
Beowulf: A New Translation
By Maria Dahvana Headley
Published by MCD Books
Nearly twenty years after Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf—and fifty years after the translation that continues to torment high-school students around the world—there is a radical new verse translation of the epic poem by Maria Dahvana Headley, which brings to light elements that have never before been translated into English, recontextualizing the binary narrative of monsters and heroes into a tale in which the two categories often entwine, justice is rarely served, and dragons live among us. A man seeks to prove himself as a hero. A monster seeks silence in his territory. A warrior seeks to avenge her murdered son. A dragon ends it all. The familiar elements of the epic poem are seen with a novelist’s eye toward gender, genre, and history—Beowulf has always been a tale of entitlement and encroachment, powerful men seeking to become more powerful, and one woman seeking justice for her child, but this version brings new context to an old story. While crafting her contemporary adaptation of Beowulf, Headley unearthed significant shifts lost over centuries of translation.