Heroic Identity in the World of Beowulf

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BRILL, 2008 - Literary Criticism - 419 pages
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Readers of Beowulf have noted inconsistencies in Beowulf's depiction, as either heroic or reckless. "Heroic Identity in the World of Beowulf" resolves this tension by emphasizing Beowulf's identity as a foreign fighter seeking glory abroad. Such men resemble "wreccan," "exiles" compelled to leave their homelands due to excessive violence. Beowulf may be potentially arrogant, therefore, but he learns prudence. This native wisdom highlights a king's duty to his warband, in expectation of Beowulf's future rule. The dragon fight later raises the same question of incompatible identities, hero versus king. In frequent reference to Greek epic and Icelandic saga, this revisionist approach to Beowulf offers new interpretations of flyting rhetoric, the custom of "men dying for their lord," and the poem's digressions.
  

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Contents

Introduction A Contested Beowulf
1
Chapter One The Wisdom Context of the SigemundHeremod and Hunfero Digressions
59
Chapter Two The Foreign Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburh
135
Chapter Three The Rhetoric of Oferhygd in Hroogars Sermon
181
Chapter Four Beowulf s Dragon Fight and the Appraisal of Oferhygd
239
Chapter Five King Beowulf and Ealdormonn Byrhtnoo
311
Conclusion
351
Bibliography Indices
375
Index of Passages Cited from Old English Verse Texts
397
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About the author (2008)

Scott Gwara teaches Old and Middle English, Medieval Latin, and Epic at the University of South Carolina.

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