Looking back, I can pinpoint many moments that poignantly mark my path toward medieval studies, but reading Beowulf was the moment that rendered all the moments before it visible. I have loved literature all my life, a statement that is perhaps unsurprising from someone who has dedicated herself to studying and teaching literature. My entrance into academia, however, was not a conventional one. I was a non-traditional undergraduate, returning to college in my late twenties to complete my degree in English and Secondary Education. While at Western State Colorado University, I fell in love with the intellectual labor of literary analysis, with the conversations about literature happening in the classroom, with the mentorship I received from my professors and also provided as a teaching assistant. I began to realize that my desire to be both a teacher and a life-long student of literature could be fulfilled by pursuing an academic career but remained undecided about an area of concentration.

When I read Beowulf in my fourth semester, my experience was the epitome of an epiphany. I have never been so captivated by a text; I was absolutely immersed in it. Every memory that I would now include on a timeline tracing my trajectory into academia and, specifically, my specialization in medieval literature was illuminated while reading that poem. It became a part of me. It is a part of me.

Most often, I work on Middle English texts. The thesis I wrote as a Master of Arts student at Oregon State University focused on two of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The dissertation I’m currently writing as a doctoral candidate at the University of Notre Dame examines late Medieval English texts. But Beowulf is never far from my mind and always close to my heart. When I finally had the great fortune to see the only surviving manuscript containing the text that changed my life, I spent a long while admiring the rather unassuming artifact. While other visitors wandered past it for its plainness, I paid homage to the object that brought me to a place I never imagined I would be.

– Emily McLemore (Ph.D. Candidate in English, University of Notre Dame)