Posted on March 3, 2009
When was Beowulf composed? When was the heroic tale first committed to manuscript form, thus preserving it for a millennia and eventual re-release as a Hollywood blockbuster?
The short, easy answer is that no one knows. Nevertheless, theories abound.
Professors Michael Drout and Barbara Brennessel and two students, Amanda Shorette and Jacob Korzun, are investigating a novel way to settle the debate. Their idea: extract DNA from the skeepskin parchment on which Beowulf was written down and then sequence the genetic material to pinpoint the time and place from which the poem was written down for posterity.
The research group is testing the feasibility of the idea in the lab. Not only is the approach ingenious, it's also a good example of the interdisciplinary nature of Wheaton's curriculum.
The new episode of Wheaton In Focus takes a close look at the project. Check it out.