Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Had the BEOWULF Poet Written KING LEAR's Storm Scene ....

I have taught many brilliant students, but one who is forever enshrined in my memory is a young man named Ian Hollenbaugh, who invented a language. He didn't do this in or for my class, but for his honors thesis. It was a whole language, with its own vocabulary and complex but logical grammatical rules, and, like Tolkien with Elvish, Ian made it up for fun.

I met Ian a couple of years before he performed this feat. For the first few weeks that he sat quietly in my Early British Literature survey class, I didn't know he was a genius. Even after he turned in his first essay, on Anglo-Saxon poetry, I didn't know. Instead, I thought he was a plagiarist. He had to be. This was an undergraduate survey course, and what I was reading was work of publishable quality that would have surprised me coming from a graduate student. Clearly it derived from someone else's pen -- or computer.

I spoke to Ian after our next class. I didn't tell him my suspicions, though he