Literary Essays on Language and Meaning in the Poem Called Beowulf Beowulfiana Literaria

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This lively collection of essays aims at freeing the poem from the burden of its critical past - and future. It begins with a balanced yet unsparing review of the uses and abuses of contemporary criticism, and continues with new answers for particular questions familiar to students of the poem: the Christian/Pagan dilemma, the connection with the Grettis Saga, the value of treasure, the role of drinking, the identity of the messenger, the poet on poetry, the poet's rhetoric, the events in Heorot, the notorious gifstol crux, the importance of wordplay, and the poet's understanding of fate. Other essays also engage a wide range of general topics: the poet's lively sense of humor, use of the Liber Monstrorum, the poet's scatology and canonical parody, sartorial anticipation of Carlyle, and more.


". . . brilliant and provocative and makes a major contribution to Beowulf scholarship. . . . his critical judgment is always based on his knowledge of the only extant manuscript, not merely on post-editorial editions. . . . His judgments therefore have a depth and acuity not found in the work of critics dependent on edited texts. . . .His careful but innovative readings will interest both mature scholars and those beginning to study the poem and seeking to make sense both of it and the critical tradition that has grown around it." - Alexandra Hennessey Olsen

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