Beowulf is an epic that celebrates the richness of English literature. It was my favorite story when I was a third year high school student, but when I realized that I have to teach it in my class, I must admit that I felt a certain fear if I’ll be able to capture the interest of my students.
That was my Grendel.
“The Battle with Grendel” is precisely the most interesting and most intense chapter of the epic, yet the deep language posed a threat on whether my students would be able to understand it or not. There has been a Grendel in me, but as a determined teacher, I clenched my fist and told myself that I have to be proactive like Beowulf. So I did.
I divided the class into five. After reading the selections, each group presented a certain aspect of Beowulf such as background information, the setting and imagery, the characters, the events, and the themes. Unlike other groupings, I prepared the groupings beforehand. I chose leaders who have displayed exemplary performances in the class and empowered them to lead their members.
The battle was won. I never imagined that I would be able to enjoy and learn beautiful lessons in Beowulf. My students were able to bring the story into life with aesthetic beauty. Certain elements stood out in wonderful masterpieces, creative presentation, and exaggerated dramatizations. I was awestruck with the potential of my students as they exceeded my expectations.
We ended the discussion with a life-changing question, “Who is your Grendel?” I just want to explode as we experience catharsis, not in Herot, but in our own classroom. The epic has evolved from the distant past as we drew closer in it with our own experiences.
My students and I came to realize that although monsters do not exist anymore or do not exist after all, there are monsters figuratively in our lives that we have to face. Some named a family member, a former foe, a feeling, an idea, a friend, and many others. Every single soul was able to identify himself in the story.
In the end, I am pretty sure that my students learned the lesson. But I must admit, I was the one who learned the most. As I listened and read the answers of my students, I began to understand their own unwritten and untold epic.
That is literature. That is life.