Fenwick Scholar Program

Date of Award


Project Type




First Advisor

John Wilson

Second Advisor

Richard Rodino

Third Advisor

James M. Kee


My goal in this thesis is to show the difference of interpretation between a reading of the Old English poem Beowulf as the work of an oral performer and a reading of it as the work of a literate author. Given the premises set down by intensive study of oral composition of poetry, and given all the literate arguments for interpreting the poem, I would like to show that Beowulf can still be read as an oral poem, and that such a reading may result in an understanding of the poem that is at least as good, if not more satisfying than, readings of the poem assuming a thoroughly literate author. I hope to show a real difference between reading this poem as a literary work, as most readers have done unquestioningly, and reading it as an oral work, as only a few readers persist in doing recently.