Friday, February 7, 2014

Grendel by John Gardner (getting started)

Today, you got your new books. You looked at the drawings, the blurbs on the back of the book, the note about the author, the epigraph, and (perhaps) spot read a few pages. This gave us an idea about what we're getting into thematically and stylistically.

Then, we read some of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, the basis for John Gardner's imaginative adaptation. We now have knowledge of a lot of the source material for the novel.

Now we're ready tackle the first chapter.

Here are some overarching questions to consider while reading:

The novel as a whole
1.        How does John Gardner explore human values, morality, and purpose in Grendel? What does the novel as a whole suggest about human values, morality, and purpose?
The novel and the modern world
2.        The novel was first published in 1971 and Gardner says he was particularly interested in using the Beowulf story to explore modern alienation and nihilism; what connections can we make to the modern world?

While reading chapter one consider these questions:

Chapter One [Aires: Ram]
1.     How is the zodiac sign—Aires, the ram—significant (meaningful) in the chapter? (Notice that the zodiac is one of the ways people have tried to find meaning--patterns and purpose--in world around us.)
2.        At the end of the chapter how do the humans attempt to transform death into victory? How does Grendel feel about this? (Notice that this question is related to the first essential question.

Be ready to analyze and discuss the first chapter on Monday. (I could always throw out a reading check assignment too.)

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