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The Literature Collection

Ringler, Dick / Beowulf: A New Translation for Oral Delivery (May 2005)


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The Oral Delivery of the Text

The present Web site contains an extensive sound file in which the translator provides an oral reading of his translation. Users of the site can either listen to this recording concentratedly and without distraction, or listen to it while following the printed text on the screen.

The entire sound file can be heard uninterruptedly from beginning to end (this takes about three hours)[1*] or it can be accessed at the beginning of each of the 44 sections into which the reading is divided (and which correspond to the numbered section-divisions of the surviving manuscript). To access the desired portion of the sound file, find—in the printed text—the section you wish to hear, then click on the sound icon at its beginning.

Anyone wishing to give his/her own oral performance of the text, or part of it, and who wishes to adopt the performance in the sound file as a model, should understand—what most potential readers will understand anyway—that the quality of the performance is dependent on the skill, taste, intuition, and discretion of the individual performer. The translator's performance is to be regarded as normative and exemplary, not prescriptive. It is—in musical terms—simply one possible realization of the score.

Hence individual performers have a good deal of leeway and scope for individuality. For example, the rule that every normal verse contains two "heavily stressed syllables" and a number of "lightly stressed syllables" does not mean that the verse contains only two levels of stress, or that a monotonous "two-stress-level" performance is to be encouraged. It only means that two of the syllables in every normal verse are more heavily stressed than the others. A performer who takes the ordinary, colloquial patterns of modern spoken English as a guide is unlikely to go very far wrong.


[1*] For persons approaching Beowulf for the first time, it is strongly recommended that they listen to the sound stream all the way through without looking at the printed text. This will enable their imaginations to respond in a creative way to the imagery, emotions and rhetorical structures of the text.

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