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 was 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.
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- Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung by Nina Maclaughlin
- The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood
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- If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho (translated by Anne Carson)
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- The Iliad (translated by Caroline Alexander)
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- Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott
- Catullus’ Bedspread: The Life of Rome’s Most Erotic Poet by Daisy Dunn
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.