Before Superman: Symposium compares Beowulf to modern superheroes

Trine University’s Spring 2019 Humanities Symposia continues Tuesday, March 26, with a look at one of the English language’s first super heroes, and how he compares to heroes of today.

Stephanie Opfer, Ph.D., assistant professor of English at Tiffin University in Tiffin, Ohio, will present “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Beowulf as Modern Super Hero,” beginning at 3:30 p.m. in Wells Theater inside Taylor Hall.

Students are often asked to compare Beowulf, the hero of the 10th century poem by the same name, to modern super heroes such as those found on the pages of DC and Marvel comics. However, while Beowulf may appear as a super hero on the surface - fighting monsters and bravely doing great deeds – Opfer says the poem suggests he is human and makes human mistakes.

“The poem does not suggest that everyone can be a Beowulf, but it does suggest that our heroes have flaws, and more importantly, that suggestion is not a bad thing, according to the poem,” she said. “This presentation will outline how Beowulf defines a hero, how that definition compares to modern heroes, and why it is okay that our heroes are flawed.”

Opfer earned her Ph.D. in English literature, with a specialization in medieval literature, from Northern Illinois University. She earned her Master of Arts in English at the University of Toledo and her Bachelor of Arts, majoring in criminal justice and political science, from Ohio Northern University. In addition to composition and general literature courses, her specific teaching and research interests include Old and Middle English language, Anglo-Saxon literature (Beowulf in particular), linguistics, mythology, Chaucer and pedagogical techniques for teaching medieval literature.

The Humanities Symposia is a series of presentations and discussions that cover a wide range of topics related to the humanities. It was created as a university outlet for scholars and artists searching for a place to present their research outside of academic conferences. The Symposia allows them to share their research with Trine as well as the local community.

Trine’s Humanities Symposia is free and open to the public. Talks usually last about 30 minutes and are immediately followed by time for any questions, which usually leads to a total time of one hour. Wells Theater seats 75 guests, so attendees are encouraged to arrive early if they have specific seating preferences.

For more information about the Symposia, contact Melissa Mayus, Ph.D., assistant professor in Trine’s Department of Humanities and Communication, at