The Dating of Beowulf

University of Toronto Press
Free sample

The date of Beowulf, debated for almost a century, is a small question with large consequences. Does the poem provide us with an accurate if idealized view of early Germanic culture? Or is it rather a creature of nostalgia and imagination, born of the desire of a later age to create for itself a glorious past? If we cannot decide when, between the 5th and 11th centuries, the poem was composed, we cannot distinguish what elements in Beowulf belong properly to the history of material culture, to the history of myth and legend, to political history, or to the development of the English literary imagination.

This book represents both individual and concerted attempts to deal with this important question, and presents one of the most important inconclusions in the study of Old English. The contributors raise so many doubts, turn up so much new and disturbing information, dismantle so many long-accepted scholarly constructs that Beowulf studies will never be the same: henceforth every discussion of the poem and its period will begin with reference to this volume.

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About the author

The late Colin Chase (1935-1984) was a member of the Department of English and of the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Toronto Press
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Published on
Dec 15, 1997
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Pages
230
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ISBN
9781442657991
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / Medieval
Literary Criticism / Medieval
Literary Criticism / Poetry
Poetry / Ancient & Classical
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The Poetics of Commemoration is a study of commemorative skaldic verse from the Viking Age. It investigates how skaldic poets responded to the deaths of kings and the ways in which poetic commemoration functioned within the social and political communities of the early medieval court. Beginning with the early genealogical poem Ynglingatal, the book explores how the commemoration of a king's ancestors could be used to consolidate his political position and to provide a shared history for the community. It then examines the presentation of dead kings in the poems Eiríksmál and Hákonarmál, showing how poets could re-cast their kings as characters of myth and legend in the afterlife. This is followed by an analysis of verse in which poets use their commemoration of one king to reinforce their relationship with his successor; it is shown that poetry could both help and hinder the integration of the poet into the retinue of a new king. Focusing then on the memorial poems composed for Kings Óláfr Tryggvason and Óláfr Haraldsson, as well as for the Jarls of the Orkney Islands, the book considers the tension between public and private expressions of grief. It explores the strategies used by poets to negotiate the tumultuous period that followed the death of a king, and to work through their own emotional responses to that loss. The book demonstrates that skaldic poets engaged with the deaths of rulers in a wide variety of ways, and that poetic commemoration was a particularly effective means not only of constructing a collective memory of the dead man, but also of consolidating the new social identity of the community he left behind.
The great epic of Western literature, translated by the acclaimed classicist Robert Fagles

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Fagles has captured the energy and poetry of Homer's original in a bold, contemporary idiom, and given us an Odyssey to read aloud, to savor, and to treasure for its sheer lyrical mastery. Renowned classicist Bernard Knox's superb introduction and textual commentary provide insightful background information for the general reader and scholar alike, intensifying the strength of Fagles's translation. This is an Odyssey to delight both the classicist and the general reader, to captivate a new generation of Homer's students. This Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition features French flaps and deckle-edged paper.

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