Professor examines Tolkien's use of poetry

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PUTNEY — The Putney Public Library will host two special programs this month on "What is it about Monsters?": Beowulf, Tolkien and Bagby's Performance.

The first part of this series will be Wednesday, May 22, at 7 p.m.

J.R.R. Tolkien devoted his professional career to reading, thinking about and teaching ancient poems like Beowulf. When he wrote his epic fantasies "The Lord of the Rings," "The Hobbit," and the "Silmarillion," he drew on his close familiarity with the Old English poem and the Anglo-Saxon world to give his fiction depth and power.

Join Dean Easton at Putney Public Library for a two-part series on the epic poem and its echoes through literary history. Participants will also look at clips from film versions of the poem, and try on some replica chain-mail to experience a bit of the Anglo-Saxon world firsthand.

Dean is a professor of linguistics with special interest in older English literature. He has presented papers on Tolkien and Beowulf at the annual International Congress on Medieval Studies, administers a Facebook group dedicated to learning and using Old English, and has taught English and ESL in China, Japan, Korea and Turkey. He now lives in southeastern Vermont with his wife Sarah, a librarian and archivist.

The library will host another program on poetry at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 29. Using the bilingual Seamus Heaney translation of the poem, the group will discuss several excerpts, Tolkien's attention to sound, his posthumous edition/translation of Beowulf, and view a few clips of Benjamin Bagby performing the epic in Old English. Why might this ancient poem still speak to the modern world, so different from the one the Anglo-Saxons knew?

These programs precede a performance of Beowulf with Benjamin Bagby, on Sunday, June 16, at 7:30 pm at Next Stage, a co-production of Next Stage Arts Project and Yellow Barn Music.

Putney Public Library is located at 55 Main St. These programs are free and open to the public.

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